Robert D. Muse
Constitutional Sheriff Candidate
Idaho Criminal & Civil Justice.Net

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Crime Victimization Glossary

This Crime Victimization Glossary is a compilation of terms and definitions provided in various OVC resources, including:

  • The Online Directory of Crime Victim Services
  • National Victim Assistance Academy (NVAA)

The list of terms, its sources, and the links to more information are provided for ease of reference and should not be interpreted as comprehensive and exhaustive to the field of crime victims’ services, victimology, or criminology.

The Glossary content is organized by—



This OVC-funded database provides access to victims’ rights statutes, tribal laws, constitutional amendments, court rules, administrative code provisions, and case summaries of related court decisions.

Crime Victims’ Rights Act. Enacted in October 2004, the Crime Victims’ Rights Act (part of the Justice for All Act) authorizes program efforts to—

  • Help victims assert and encourage enforcement of victims’ rights.
  • Promote compliance with victims’ rights laws.
  • Fund grant programs and other activities to implement provisions.
  • Provides an enforcement mechanism for rights delineated in the Act.

This Act also gives victims the following rights in federal criminal cases (18 U.S.C. section 3771):

(1) The right to be reasonably protected from the accused.
(2) The right to reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of any public court proceeding or any parole proceeding involving the crime, or of any release or escape of the accused.
(3) The right not to be excluded from any such public court proceeding, unless the court, after receiving clear and convincing evidence, determines that testimony by the victim would be materially altered if the victim heard other testimony at that proceeding.
(4) The right to be reasonably heard at any public proceeding in the district court involving release, plea, sentencing, or any parole proceeding.
(5) The reasonable right to confer with the attorney for the Government in the case.
(6) The right to full and timely restitution as provided in law.
(7) The right to proceedings free from unreasonable delay.
(8) The right to be treated with fairness and with respect for the victim’s dignity and privacy.

Case Law. Summaries of case law under the CVRA and state victims’ rights laws can be found in the VictimLaw database (see above) or on the National Crime Victim Law Institute (NCVLI) Web site under Cases of Interest.

Legal Information Institute: Law by Source - Federal Law Collection
Offers access to U.S. Federal legal documents (the U.S. Code, Supreme Court decisions, searchable index of U.S. Court of Appeals decisions, and the Code of Federal Regulations).

Resources of the National Conference of State Legislatures
With funding from OVC, the National Conference of State Legislatures has developed several resources on victims’ rights and services, primarily for state legislators, but also useful for victim advocates, criminal justice practitioners, and other allied professionals. The resources include an audio CD providing an overview of victims’ rights and services and an online guide to victims’ rights laws in the states.

THOMAS: Legislative Information on the Internet
Houses current U.S. Federal legislative information, such as Bills, laws, Congressional Record, and reports.

Victims of Crime Act (VOCA). October 12, 2009, marked the 25th anniversary of the signing of the VOCA, developed in conjunction with the President’s Task Force on Victims of Crime and the work of victim advocates. This federal law, passed by Congress in 1984 and amended in 1988, called for the establishment of the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) and created the Crime Victims Fund (the Fund), which provides funds to states for victim assistance and compensation programs that offer support and services to those affected by violent crimes.

Crime Victims’ Rights

Victim Notification System

The right to notification is supported in most states by Victim Information and Notification Everyday (VINE) and the U.S. Department of Justice through the Victim Notification System (VNS).

VNS is a cooperative effort between the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Postal Inspection Service, the United States Attorneys' offices, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Launched in 2001 as a pilot program with funding support from OVC, it became fully operational in 2002 under the development and oversight of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys. This free, computer-based system provides important information to victims of federal crimes. In many cases crime victims will receive letters generated through VNS containing information about the events pertaining to the criminal case and/or any defendants in the case. This information is also available in English and Spanish on the Internet and through a toll-free telephone number (1-866-365-4968).

VINELink is the online version of VINE, a service through which victims of crime can use the telephone or Internet to search for information regarding their offender’s custody status and register to receive telephone and e-mail notification when their offender’s custody status changes. VINELink allows crime victims to obtain timely and reliable information about criminal cases and the custody status of offenders 24 hours a day.

Victim Rights’ Compliance


The Crime Victims’ Rights Act requires that within 1 year from the date of the Act’s enactment, the Attorney General designate an administrative authority within the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to receive and investigate complaints relating to the provision or violation of crime victims’ rights by DOJ employees. In response, the DOJ established the Office of the Victims’ Rights Ombudsman. If a crime victim believes that a DOJ employee violated or failed to provide him/her with one or more of his/her rights, he/she may file a complaint. A crime victim includes any person who has been directly and proximately harmed as a result of the commission of a Federal offense or an offense in the District of Columbia.

Additional guidance regarding crime victims’ rights and remedies is available in the Attorney General Guidelines for Victim and Witness Assistance. The most recent edition incorporates the CVRA and guidance on the unique challenges of assisting victims of human trafficking and identity theft.

Type of Victim/Victimization

Adult molested as child
Adult age 18 or older who was sexually abused as a child (see child sexual abuse definition below).

Adult sexual assault
Sexual offense—including rape, incest, fondling, exhibitionism, or pornography—of an adult age 18 or older.

Aggravated assault
Unlawful, intentional causing of serious bodily injury with or without a deadly weapon, or unlawful, intentional attempting or threatening of serious bodily injury or death with a deadly or dangerous weapon.

Any willful or malicious burning or attempt to burn, with or without intent to defraud, a dwelling, house, public building, motor vehicle or aircraft, or personal property of another.

An unlawful attack by one person on another, with or without a weapon, that inflicts, or attempts or threatens to inflict, physical injury.

A person under the age of 18 or as otherwise defined by state law.

Child physical abuse
Nonaccidental injury to a child by a parent or other adult that may include severe beatings, burns, strangulation, or human bites.

Child sexual abuse
Sexual offense (see definition below) against a child by a parent or other adult.

Domestic violence
Violent acts involving a current or former spouse or domestic partner.

DUI/DWI crash
Accident involving one or more motor vehicles in which at least one driver was under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs (DUI) or was legally intoxicated (DWI) at the time of the crash.

Elder abuse
Abuse perpetrated by a caretaker on an elderly individual who depends on others for support and assistance.

A deliberate deception perpetrated for unlawful or unfair gain.

Gang violence
Criminal acts committed by a group of three or more individuals who regularly engage in criminal activity and identify themselves with a common name or sign.

Human traffic
Sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion, for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.

Identity theft
A crime in which an imposter obtains key pieces of personal information, such as Social Security or driver's license numbers, to impersonate someone else.

Other, referring to types of victim served
Victims of nonviolent crime, such as burglary and white-collar crime.

Other violent crimes
Other crimes not listed, not including property crimes (which is the taking of money or property without force or threat of force).

Taking or attempting to take anything of value from the care, custody, or control of a person or persons by force or threat of force or violence.

Sexual offense
Forcible rape, attempted rape, statutory rape, sexual harassment, prostitution, or other unlawful sexual contact and other unlawful behavior intended to result in sexual gratification or profit from sexual activity.

Any unwanted contact between two people that directly or indirectly communicates a threat or places the victim in fear.

Survivor of homicide victim
Family member or loved one of a murder victim.

Use of violence or intimidation to coerce a government or civilian population to further political or social objectives.

Victims with disabilities
Victims of crime who have a physical or mental disability.

White-collar crime
Nonviolent crime for financial gain committed by means of deception by persons with special technical and professional knowledge of business or government.


Type of Service Provided

Assistance in filing compensation claims
Making victims aware of the availability of crime victim compensation (see definition below), helping victims complete required forms, and gathering needed documentation. May also include followup contact with the victim compensation agency on behalf of the victim.

Criminal justice support/advocacy
Support, assistance, and advocacy provided to victims at any stage of the criminal justice process, including postsentencing services and support.

Crisis counseling
In-person crisis intervention, emotional support, and guidance and counseling provided by advocates, counselors, mental health professionals, or peers. Such counseling may occur at the scene of a crime or immediately after a crime or be provided on an ongoing basis.

Crisis hotline counseling
Operation of a 24-hour telephone service, 7 days a week, which provides counseling, guidance, emotional support, and information and referral.

Emergency financial assistance
Cash outlays for such needs as transportation, food, clothing, and emergency housing.

Emergency legal advocacy
Filing of temporary restraining orders, injunctions, and other protective orders, elder abuse (see definition above) petitions, and child abuse (see definition above) petitions. Does not include criminal prosecution or the employment of attorneys for such nonemergency purposes as custody disputes and civil suits.

Followup contact
In-person contacts, telephone contacts, and written communications with victims to offer emotional support, provide empathetic listening, and check on a victim's progress.

Group treatment
Coordination and provision of supportive group activities, which include self-help, peer, and social support.

Information and referral (in-person)
In-person contact with crime victim to identify available services and support.

Information and referral (telephone)
Telephone contact with crime victim to identify available services and support.

Other, referring to services provided
Other services and activities allowed under the 1984 Victims of Crime Act (VOCA).

Personal advocacy
Assisting victims in securing rights, remedies, and services from other agencies; locating emergency financial assistance and intervening with employers, creditors, and others on behalf of the victim; assisting in filing for losses covered by public and private insurer programs, including workers' compensation, unemployment benefits, and public assistance; and accompanying the victim to the hospital.

Safety plan
Guidelines for stalking victims that, if implemented, may reduce the odds of physical or emotional harm from a stalker.

Shelter/safe house
Short- and long-term housing and related support services for victims and families following a victimization.

Supervised visitation
Contact between a noncustodial party and one or more children in the presence of a third person, either paid or unpaid, who is responsible for observing and, to the greatest extent possible, providing a safe environment for those involved.

Intensive professional, psychological, psychiatric, or other counseling-related treatment for individuals, couples, and family members to provide emotional support in crisis arising from the occurrence of crime. Includes the evaluation of mental health needs and the delivery of psychotherapy.

Transport service either to or from a victim service agency.

Victim compensation
Payment or reparations made to a crime victim.


The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language.4th ed. 2000. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Comer, R. 1998. Abnormal Psychology.3d ed. New York: W.H. Freeman and Company.

Criminal Justice Today Glossary. Retrieved July 11, 2003.

Criminal Law Glossary. Retrieved July 11, 2003.

Criminology Today Glossary. Retrieved July 11, 2003.

Federal Bureau of Investigation. Crime in the United States—2001. Uniform Crime Reports. Retrieved July 11, 2003.

The National Center for Victims of Crime. Stalking Resource Center. Safety Plan Guidelines. Retrieved July 11, 2003.

National Criminal Justice Reference Service. In the Spotlight: Gangs: Related Resources. Retrieved July 11, 2003.

Sacramento CourtAppointed Special Advocate Program. Access to Visitation Program Overview. Retrieved July 11, 2003.

Subgrant Award Report Form, OJP ADMIN FORM 7980/2A (REV. 11–95). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime.

U.S.Department of State. Trafficking in Persons Report. Retrieved July 11, 2003.

Webster’s II New Riverside Dictionary.Revised edition. 1996. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Civil Remedies

Aiding and Abetting
Similar to civil conspiracy, when someone, not the actual perpetrator, so significantly contributes to the criminal operation as to be considered liable for their actions.

To go in a secretive manner out of the jurisdiction of the courts, or to lie concealed, in order to avoid their process.

Formal written responses to the defendants/perpetrators file in response to plaintiff's complaints. These pleadings may deny some or all of the allegations; they may raise defenses such as self-defense or assumption of risk, or they may allege that even if all of the plaintiff's allegations are true, there is no liability. These pleadings are usually accompanied by legal memoranda and briefs. The names of the pleadings vary from jurisdiction. "Demurrers," "motions for summary judgment," motions to dismiss," and "answers" are all descriptions of a responsive pleading.

A cause of action for intentionally putting the victim in fear of a battery, coupled with the apparent ability to commit the battery.

Assumption of Risk
A legal doctrine that may relieve perpetrators of liability for injuries to victims if the victim voluntarily entered into a situation knowing that there was a risk of foreseeable injury.

Automobile Insurance
Insurance policies that cover injuries "arising out of the use, operation, or maintenance" of the vehicle.

The intentional, offensive, unpermitted touching of the victim by the perpetrator.

Burden of Proof
The threshold of evidence that one party must present in order to prevail in his or her case. In criminal cases, the burden of proof is very high: "beyond a reasonable doubt," or generally 99 percent of the evidence. In civil cases, however, the burden of proof on the victim/plaintiff is "a mere preponderance," or more than 50 percent of the evidence.

Causes of Action
The legal basis for a civil lawsuit.

Civil Actions
Lawsuits filed by victims to recover from injuries sustained and damages incurred as a result of the perpetrator's crime.

Civil Conspiracy
See Aiding and Abetting.

Collateral Estoppel
A legal doctrine which provides that, in some cases, the criminal conviction of perpetrators will be considered proof of those perpetrator’s legal liability in civil actions brought by the perpetrator's victims.

A general term meaning the extent to which defendants/perpetrators have the financial means to pay judgments from assets on hand, assets reasonably to be expected in the future, or financial assistance from such sources as insurance coverage.

Comparative Negligence
The more prevalent approach to reducing amounts paid to plaintiffs/victims allowing partially negligent plaintiffs/victims to recover damages from defendants/perpetrators, however, reducing the amounts of the award by the applicable percentage of the plaintiff's/victim's own negligence (see also: Contributory Negligence).

Monetary reparations made to crime victims by a state or a governmental entity to recover "out-of-pocket" expenses incurred as a result of a crime.

Compensatory Damages
Damages paid to compensate victims for losses caused by the torts of the perpetrator. Such losses include out-of-pocket expenses; loss of income; expenses such as medical bills, therapy, and funeral costs; loss of present and future earning capacity; conscious pain and suffering; financial support; and "consortium," the loss of the affection and society of loved ones

The formal written pleading filed in a civil court alleging that the defendant(s) injured the plaintiff(s), and that the defendant(s) should be liable for damages caused.

Contributory Negligence
A legal doctrine, now modified in most jurisdictions, that any negligence on the part of the plaintiff/victim will bar civil lawsuits against defendant/perpetrator.

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Criminal Action
Cases in which the state prosecutes perpetrators of criminal acts, committed in violation of the state's laws.

Amounts of money awarded to winning parties in civil suits expressed in a judgment.

Parties against whom civil actions are brought.

Legal doctrines that relieve defendant/perpetrator of liability for having committed a tort.

Delayed Discovery Rule
A legal doctrine that suspends the running of statutes of limitations during periods of time in which the victims did not discover, or by the exercise of reasonable diligence, could not have discovered, the injuries that would lead to their causes of action against the defendant/perpetrator.

Pretrial proceedings in which attorneys for parties in a civil case have the opportunity to examine, under oath, the opposing parties and potential witnesses in the case. Depositions are sworn and reduced to writing. The transcripts may be admissible in evidence at trials if the witnesses are no longer available, or for purposes of impeachment.

First Party Action
Lawsuits brought by victims directly against their perpetrators.

General Liability Insurance
Insurance policies covering whatever losses are enumerated in the policy.

Homeowner’s Insurance
Broad-based insurance policy that contracts to protect the insured from enumerated causes of accidental injuries to others. The accidents usually are not confined to acts that happen on the insured’s "home" premises but also includes accidents that happen elsewhere. Renters of premises can obtain Renter’s Insurance.

The individual who has contracted to receive insurance coverage from the Insurer whose actions are otherwise covered by an insurance policy.

The business entity which has contracted to provide insurance coverage to the insured.

The formal recitations of the outcomes of civil cases. They are almost always reduced to writing, and recorded as a part of the file.

A legal doctrine providing that one may be liable to another if (1) he or she owes a legal duty to the other; (2) he or she materially breaches that duty; (3) the breach is the proximate cause of the other's injury; and (4) the other person suffers damages.

Negligent Entrustment
A tort in which one or more persons give, lend, or allow someone to use, or should have anticipated that the person would use, a dangerous instrumentality to injure another.

Parental Liability
A legal doctrine that holds parents civilly liable for the torts and crimes of their children.

Persons who have criminally injured victims.

Party bringing civil actions. In the case of victim civil remedies, the victim is the plaintiff.

Professional Liability Insurance
Insurance coverage issued to professional persons: doctors, dentists, lawyers, architects, etc., to cover any losses caused by malpractice in the course of their professional services.

A legal doctrine that may excuse defendant/perpetrator from the consequences of his/her crime/tort if the plaintiff/victim instigated a confrontation, or otherwise caused or provoked the defendant's actions.

Proximate Cause
The "cause in fact" of injury to victims; a "cause" without which the victim's injuries would not have occurred.

Punitive Damages
Damages awarded to victims against perpetrators, over and above compensatory damages, in order to punish or make an example of perpetrators.

Renters Insurance
See Homeowner’s Insurance.

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Rescue Doctrine
A legal doctrine that allows one to recover for injuries suffered in coming to the rescue or assistance of others in peril. It is used as a counter to the defense of Assumption of Risk.

Court action that requires perpetrators to make financial payments to their victims, usually as a condition of probation or leniency in sentencing.

Self Defense
The legal doctrine which relieves defendants/perpetrators of liability for torts if they acted in the reasonable belief that they had to use force to defend themselves, or others (loved ones, etc.), from death or great bodily harm.

Agreements among the parties to lawsuits to end the suits without trial; usually the plaintiff agrees to drop the lawsuit for a fixed sum of monetary damages paid by the defendant.

Statute of Limitations
Periods of time, set by law, after which civil actions cannot be brought.

Third Party Actions
Lawsuits brought against persons whose negligence or gross negligence has facilitated the commission of a tort by a defendant.

Tolling of Statutes of Limitations
The running of statutes of limitations is suspended.

Civil or private wrongs (as opposed to criminal offenses) committed by perpetrators against victims.

Uninsured or Underinsured Motorists
State law usually makes it compulsory that drivers have enough insurance to cover damages if they, or others defined in the policies, are injured by motorists who have no insurance, or not enough insurance, to cover injuries that they have caused.

Persons who have been injured by the criminal acts of perpetrators.

Wrongful Death
The civil action for the killing of one human by another, without justification or excuse.

Victim's Terms Glossary

Victims' Resources

Jump to terms beginning with the letter: A B C D E F G H I J M N O P R S T V W

ACCUSED: A person who has been charged with committing a crime but has not yet been tried.

ACQUITTAL: A judgment finding a defendant not guilty of committing a certain criminal offense.

ADJUDICATE: To determine judicially, adjudge, reach a judicial decision.

APPEAL: To take a case to a higher court for review of the correctness of the rulings or the decisions of a trial court.

ARRAIGNMENT: The initial court hearings at which the accused is brought before a judge, told the charges against him/her and asked to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.

AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES: Facts tending to increase the severity of an offense.

ARREST: To take a person suspected of committing a crime into legal custody so that he/she can be charged with committing the crime.

BAIL: A sum of money required of the defendant to secure freedom until the date of trial or hearing. The purpose of bail is to ensure that the accused shows up at court. If he or she does not appear, the money is forfeited to the court.

BENCH WARRANT: Process issued by the Court for the attachment or arrest of a defendant who does not obey a subpoena.

BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT: The standard for the burden of proof placed on the prosecution in a criminal case. Reasonable doubt, as the name implies, is a doubt for which one can give a reason. It is such a doubt as would cause a juror, after careful and impartial consideration of all the evidence, to be so undecided that he/she cannot say that he/she has an abiding conviction of the defendant’s guilt. It is such a doubt as would cause a reasonable person to hesitate or pause. It is not a fanciful or a whimsical doubt, nor a doubt based on conjecture. It is based on reason. The government is not required to establish guilt beyond all doubt, or to a mathematical or a scientific certainty. Its burden is to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

BIND OVER: The process whereby a felony case is transferred to a court once the defendant has been indicted.

BURDEN OF PROOF: The requirement that a particular party, who is the proponent of a factual proposition, must persuade the trier of fact (judge or jury) by evidence of the truth of his/her proposition in a criminal case. The burden of proof is on the prosecution.

CHARGE: An accusation made against the accused that he/she committed the crime.

CITATION: A call or summons to appear in court on a given day.

CIVIL DISABILITIES: The way in which those who have "paid their debt to society" have their rights lifted after a conviction. Voting and license eligibility, certain jobs, and ability to run for certain offices may be limited by different states. Usually, individuals may be released from these only by obtaining sworn statements from reputable individuals attesting to the "rehabilitation" of the offender. Release does not erase the record of conviction.

COMPLAINT: Brought by a citizen or police officer, this is the formal charge which institutes proceedings against the defendant in the trial court.

CONTEMPT OF COURT: If one fails to obey the verbal order from a judge and if the order was proper, one may be evicted or arrested for disruption or contempt of court.

CONTINUANCE: The case is not heard on the assigned date, but is postponed to a later date. Continuances are allowed at the court’s discretion at the request of the prosecutor or the defendant.

CONVICTION: A judgment finding the defendant guilty of committing a certain criminal offense.

COURT: An agency of the judicial branch of the government, with constitutional authority to decide questions of law and disputes brought before it.

COURT OF RECORD: A court in which a verbatim record of the proceedings is kept, either by stenographic means or electrical devices. This is necessary if there is the possibility of an appeal.

CRIMINAL LAW: The law relating to crimes. The general theory of "common law" is that all wrongs are divisible into two categories: (1) civil or private wrongs, which are called "torts" and (2) criminal or public wrongs, which are called crimes. Torts are remedied by civil actions, usually brought by private persons. Crimes are remedied by criminal prosecutions, brought by a public official (prosecutor). A wrong may be both a tort and a crime; for example, embezzlement, in which the victim may sue for damages for the amount embezzled, and the offender is subject to punishment.

CROSS EXAMINATION: The questioning in trial or a hearing of a witness by the party or parties (or their counsel) other than the party initially calling the witness to the witness stand, immediately following direct examination.

DEFAULT: A situation where the defendant has failed to appear in court at the designated time.

DEFENDANT: A person who has been charged with committing a crime and is now on trial.

DEFENSE ATTORNEY: The lawyer for the defendant/accused.

DEFERRED PROSECUTION: An individual has been charged with a criminal offense; however, the defendant does not enter a plea and prosecution of the charge is withheld for a period of time, during time which defendant is placed under supervision of the Probation Department. If the defendant makes a satisfactory adjustment, the original charges filed against the defendant are dismissed.

DELINQUENT: A delinquent means any child (of an age determined by law) who has violated any federal or state law except traffic or game or fish law regulations.

DETENTION: After arrest and booking at the police station, the defendant is put in a lockup or detention cell until taken to court for a hearing, usually no more than 72 hours. "Pre-trial" detention is keeping the defendant in jail until the trial, either because he/she could not make bail or because he/she was found to be too dangerous to be released.

DISMISS/DISMISSAL: An order of the court terminating the prosecution of a case by ordering the charges against the defendant dropped. The prosecution may or may not be able to re-file the charges, depending on the nature of the order.

DISPOSITION: If the jury or judge has found the defendant guilty of the charge on which he or she is being tried, the judge must determine what penalty shall be imposed. This is the disposition of the sentencing phase of the trial. In some states, the judge may sentence the defendant to a specified facility, or to the Department of Corrections only. The defendant has a right to the presence of an attorney at this phase. A court officer usually submits a pre-sentence report on which the judge bases his/her decision.

DIVERSION: Essentially, this is pre-prosecution probation made available to the lesser offender as an alternative to standard criminal prosecution. The decision to divert is a joint decision of the district attorney and the court when it appears that both society and the defendant will benefit by involving the defendant in a meaningful rehabilitation program, thereby avoiding deleterious effects that normal criminal prosecution has on the offender and the resources of the justice system. Diversion is accomplished by deferred sentencing and deferred prosecution. It is sometimes administered after a guilty plea is entered, which plea is expunged (removed) from the defendant’s records if he/she meets the terms of the diversion.

DOCKET: Also called a "day book." The list of cases heard in court each day or the names of persons who have cases pending. May also include a list of the charges, the amount of bail (if any), how posted, lawyers and witnesses, how the action was initiated (by arrest, warrant or summons), complainant’s name, dates of each significant proceeding, disposition of the case, etc.

DUE PROCESS OF LAW: The exercise of the powers of government under safeguards to protect individual rights. There are two recognized forms: procedural and substantive. Procedural due process includes notice of charges and an opportunity to defend or be heard in an orderly proceeding. Substantive due process includes the liberty to pursue a chosen vocation or education, freedom to marry or contract, etc. The right to due process is protected by the Fifth Amendment (federal protection) and by the Fourteenth Amendment (state protection).

EQUAL PROTECTION OF THE LAW: A phrase found in the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requiring application of state laws and access to the courts must be available to all persons without arbitrary limitations. Any law involving a classification of some type (race, sex, age, etc.) may be challenged and evaluated as to its reasonableness in accomplishing a legitimate state goal.

EXCLUSIONARY RULE: The exclusion from trial of any evidence that was illegally obtained. Any evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment cannot be used in any state or federal court.

EVIDENCE: Testimony and objects presented in court by the prosecutor and the defense.

FELONY: A crime more serious than a misdemeanor. Generally, a felony is punishable by imprisonment in a penitentiary for at least one year.

GRAND JURY: A group of citizens who hear evidence presented by the prosecutor and decide whether there is enough evidence to charge and try the accused for one or more felonies. In many states, prosecutors do not have to use a grand jury, but may themselves file felony charges in an "information."

GUILTY: A decision of a judge or jury in a criminal case that the accused committed the crime he/she was charged with.

GUILTY PLEA: A statement by the accused that he/she is guilty of the crime he/she was charged with.

HABEAS CORPUS: A writ addressed to one who has a person in custody, commanding him to produce the person, i.e., "have the body," before the court at a certain time. The purpose of the writ is to test the legality of the detention.

HEARINGS: In a crime that is not indictable (a "summary offense"), the judge may hear a case and dispose of it at the preliminary level. A preliminary hearing includes the prosecutor’s evidence that a felony has been committed and that the accused is probably the one who committed it. A defense lawyer may examine any witness the prosecution calls. The judge decides whether there is a prima facie case requiring a grand jury investigation or prosecutor’s "information." Other hearings are called to rule on admissible evidence or other legal matters prior to the trial.

HUNG JURY: A jury that is unable to reach a unanimous agreement on a verdict.

INDICTMENT: Instead of an indictment by a grand jury, the prosecutor’s office can bring charges by filing a bill of information. Most charges are filed this way.

INJUNCTION: A judicial order requiring the party enjoined to take or refrain from taking some specified action.

INVESTIGATION: The gathering of evidence by police and prosecutors to seek to prove the accused committed or did not commit the crime.

JUDGE: A person who presides over a court of law.

JURY: A group of citizens who hear the evidence presented in court and decide whether the accused is guilty or not guilty. MATTER OF FACT: An actual happening, thing done, or event, which is often said to be a question for the jury in a jury trial.

MATTER OF LAW: A principle or rule of duty to be decided by a judge.

MISDEMEANOR: A crime that is less serious than a felony and is usually punishable by one year or less in jail and/or a fine. Misdemeanors include offenses such as petty theft, most traffic violations, and possession of marijuana.

MISTRIAL: A trial that ends when the jury cannot decide whether the accused is guilty or not guilty, or when a legal procedure is violated.

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES: Facts tending to lessen the severity of an offense.

MOTION: An oral or written request to the judge asking the judge to make a decision or take a specific action.

NOLO CONTENDRE: A pleading, usually by defendants in criminal cases, which literally means, "I will not contest it." It is similar to a guilty plea, but has the benefit of not admitting wrongdoing in any related civil trial. The judge must approve this plea and does so usually under extenuating circumstances or a first offense.

NOT GUILTY PLEA: A statement by the accused denying that he/she committed the crime.

OFFENDER: A person who has been convicted of crime.

"PAPERING": Also may be known as "screening." The decision made by the prosecutor on whether there is enough evidence to file charges against the accused.

PAROLE: Conditional release from prison before the end of the maximum sentence. Violation results in being returned to custody, pending a hearing to determine if a violation occurred and if the defendant did it.

PERJURY: A lie told while a person is under oath to tell the truth.

PERSONAL RECOGNIZANCE: An obligation of record entered into before a court requiring the performance of an act such as appearing in court as instructed. In other words, a person makes a pledge to the court that he/she will return before the court as instructed, and should he/she fail to do so, he/she is remanded to jail.

PLEA: A defendant’s formal answer in court denying or admitting that he/she committed a crime.

PLEA BARGAIN: A compromise whereby the defendant pleads guilty to a charge in return for a reduction of other charges. Plea bargaining is a function of prosecutorial discretion. Factors considered are: whether the defendant is a serious threat to the community, the nature of the crime and the probability of conviction.

PRECEDENT: The decision of an earlier judge in an earlier, similar case, used as an authority to determine later facts of questions of law. They are derived from appellate decisions.

PRELIMINARY HEARING: A hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to hold the accused for a grand jury hearing.

PRE-SENTENCE INVESTIGATION (REPORT): A social study made by Probation Officers at the discretion of the judge to: (1) gain understanding of the convicted offender, (2) discover circumstances surrounding the offense, and (3) make recommendation to the court for action on the sentence or disposition.

PRIMA FACIE CASE: A case which has proceeded upon sufficient proof to that stage where it will supporting a finding if evidence to the contrary is disregarded; a case where evidence in one’s favor is strong enough for his/her opponent to be called upon to answer.

PRISON: An institution run by the state or federal justice systems for the confinement of offenders convicted of felonies. From some prisons, offenders may earn parole.

PROBABLE CAUSE: The amount of proof needed by the police, the prosecutors, and the judge to believe that a crime was committed and the accused committed it. It is a standard of proof less onerous than proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

PROBATION: A method of allowing a person convicted of an offense to go at large under suspension of sentence, usually under the supervision of a probation officer, for a period of time.

PRO SE: Any party who acts for himself or herself in court, without counsel.

PROSECUTOR: In a criminal case, the lawyer representing the government, the people of that jurisdiction, and the victim.

PUBLIC DEFENDER: An attorney employed by the government to represent defendants who cannot afford to pay for a lawyer.

RECIDIVISM RATE: The relative number of prisoners who, after being released, return to prison or jail because they have committed another crime.

REFEREE: A person, not a judge, who performs the judicial function of determining facts and making findings, and then makes recommendations for action to a judge.

RESTITUTION: The act of restoring; restoration of anything to its rightful owner; the act of making good by giving the equivalent for any loss, damages or injury. A restitution order is an increasingly used sentencing sanction.

REVOCATION: A decision to withdraw probation, parole or privileges in a particular case.

SENTENCE: The accused person’s punishment after being convicted of a crime.

SENTENCING: Takes place after the verdict of "guilty" has been pronounced, usually at another time, and, in most felonies, is based on the pre-sentence report(s) submitted to the judge by the probation staff.

STATUS HEARINGS: Court hearings to make sure that both the prosecution and defense are ready for trial.

SUMMONS: A notice requiring appearance in court on a specific day at a given time. It means that a complaint, civil or criminal, has been made.

SUBPOENA: A written order calling for an individual’s presence in court in a situation involving someone else. A judge or prosecutor generally issues the subpoena.

SUSPECT: A person who is thought to have committed a crime and is under investigation, but who has not been arrested or charged.

TESTIMONY: Statements made in court by witnesses who are under oath to tell the truth.

TORT: Any private or civil wrong, by act or omission, for which a civil suit can be brought.

TRIAL: A court proceeding before a judge or a jury at which evidence is presented to decide whether or not the accused committed the crime.

TRIAL DE NOVO: A new trial conducted as if no previous trial had occurred.

TRIER OF FACT: The body who has the responsibility for determining the truth of a factual proposition. In a trial in a court, it is the judge; in a jury trial, it is the jury.

VENIRE: An order to an office to select and deliver jurors to the court.

VERDICT: The decision of a jury, finding the defendant guilty or innocent.

VICTIM: An individual against whom a crime or an attempted crime was committed, or the family or a close friend of an individual who was murdered.

VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENT: A form used by the judge at the time of sentencing that allows victims to describe the physical, emotional, financial and social impact of the crime on their lives and families. Many states permit victims to deliver impact statements personally, in open court.

WAIVER: A voluntary decision by a defendant to eliminate a legal procedure for which he/she has a right.

WARRANT: A legal order, usually signed by a judge, authorizing either an arrest or a search of a given person or place, for items that must be described with particularity.

WITNESS: A person who has seen or knows something about the crime. The victim is usually a witness, too.

WITNESS CONFERENCE: A discussion among the victim, witness(es) and the prosecutor to prepare for trial.

WRIT: An order from the court.

This glossary was based on a document initially developed by Susan Dryovage, Co-Director of the Boulder, Colorado, Justice System Volunteer Program and The Council for Court Excellence in Washington, D.C., in 1989. It has been expanded and updated.


rockwell jury room

Norman Rockwell- Jury Room (a.k.a. The Holdout)

(originally published on

Citizens in our (once) free republic founded under the English common law system, have both the power and the right to vote according to conscience when they sit on a jury and can vote not guilty even in the face of the law and in the face of the evidence. The defendant also has a right to expect that his jury will be fully informed of their rightful power to vote “not guilty” if they believe justice requires it, regardless of the evidence. Anything less is not a real jury trial.

The jury issues no opinion, gives no explanation of its decision. It simply renders its verdict, and if the verdict is “not guilty,” that acquittal cannot be questioned or overturned by any court. It is telling that a conviction can be overturned, but an acquittal cannot – the deck is stacked on the side of the liberty of the individual on trial. While a judge can overturn a jury conviction that in his judgment is unsupported by the evidence, or where the jury harbors prejudicial animus toward the defendant, the judge cannot overturn an acquittal even if the evidence is overwhelming – even if the defendant admits on the stand that he did the actions of which he is accused.

A landmark case in jury history is that of William Penn, the Quaker preacher who would later found Pennsylvania. He was put on trial in England for the “crime” of preaching a non-government approved religion on a public street corner. He did not deny that he had preached as a Quaker. He proudly proclaimed it. There was no doubt that English law at the time considered his actions criminal. That too was plain. And yet, the jury acquitted him in spite of the obvious, undisputed facts, and in the face of the clear law. That jury was initially held in contempt and jailed by the trial judge, but on appeal, the English appellate courts ruled that the jury has an absolute power to acquit despite the facts and in the face of the law, and that it cannot be punished for exercising its power. That acquittal helped to establish the free practice of religion.

The same was true in the celebrated Zenger trial in the American colonies, where Zenger, a newspaper editor, did not deny he had published an editorial severely criticizing the royal governor. The facts were undisputed. Under English law at the time, mere criticism of government officials, even if true, was still considered libel, and could be punished. And yet, despite both the law and the facts being abundantly clear, the jury acquitted Zenger. That acquittal helped establish legal protection for freedom of the press, and freedom of speech, such that only knowingly false statements can be considered libel.

The Fugitive Slave laws criminalized the underground railroad. Abolitionists accused of helping runaway slaves were often set free by sympathetic jurors voting according to conscience, nullifying the law.

One way to think of the jury is that it is effectively a fourth branch of government, sovereign in its own realm. Separation of powers requires that its powers and immunities remain inviolate. In this sense, the jury has as much a power to set even a “guilty” man free as a governor using the power of clemency, or as a President using his “Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment” under Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution. That power is also absolute, except in cases of impeachment.

It’s telling that modern power elites don’t scream and yell about governors and Presidents having such an absolute power to set even a clearly “guilty” man free. When fellow elites within government do it, it is accepted. But when the people, as a jury, do precisely the same thing, elites gnash their teeth and shrilly warn of impending chaos and anarchy (as if that were a bad thing!), crying crocodile tears about all the supposed injustice that will result if the jury does something similar to what governors and presidents do at will.

The plain fact is our entire legal system was originally designed to favor liberty, with discretion built in at every level, from the beat cop, to the prosecutor (who has a responsibility to see that justice is done, and that sometimes means not prosecuting even in a clear case), to the jury, to the judges who can overturn an unjust conviction (such as by ruling the law to be unconstitutional as applied), to the governor and/or President who can overturn even a “just” conviction and set a certifiably guilty man free. As Hamilton stated in Federalist 74, in reference to the power of Pardon:

“The criminal code of every country partakes so much of necessary severity, that without an easy access to exceptions in favor of unfortunate guilt, justice would wear a countenance too sanguinary and cruel.”

Just so. And as it is with the power of pardon, so it is with the power of the jury.

The scales of justice are meant to be tipped on the side of liberty, with “easy access to exceptions in favor of unfortunate guilt” built in at each step.

Another way of looking at the jury is that it is much like the militia, since it too is a vital public institution where the people directly participate by being their own guardians. A people who are their own guardians in the militia cannot be tyrannized, however bloodthirsty a usurping tyrant may be. Likewise, a people who are their own judges of guilt, their own judges of the law as applied to that case, and their own guardians of the liberty of their fellows by serving on a jury, cannot be tyrannized, however bloodthirsty the minions of the usurping state may be. When a jury is aware of its power, they can stop the state cold, however much it lusts for convictions.

That absolute power to nullify has always been the jury’s power – it is, in fact, the very core of what a jury does. When I (Stewart) was a student at Yale Law School, my procedure professor, Owen Fiss, openly acknowledged that a jury is not merely a fact finder. He pointed out that if that were all a jury were for, we could have professional fact finding juries, made up of forensic experts, handwriting analysis experts, voice analysis experts, etc. who would be far more “efficient” fact finders, working together on one case after another.


Though Professor Fiss, being an elitist liberal, didn’t trust juries and instead considered judges “the “embodiment of public reason” (I know, I know, amazing that someone so brilliant can be so blind), he was at least honest enough to admit that the jury is there to serve as a populist, peoples’ check on government power. It didn’t make sense any other way. What Professor Fiss could not see is that the virtue of the jury is precisely the fact that it does not come from some elite segment of society out of touch with the “unwashed masses.” It is made up of average people who will never sit together again on the same jury. They come together only once, to do justice and then to depart. The jury is not a repeat player in the system, like judges, lawyers, and hired-gun expert witnesses. It cannot be influenced by special interests, it has no institutional turf to defend, no reason to go along to get along with backroom deals, and no desire to rack up a conviction record to further political ambitions.

And the real purpose of that unique, independent assembly of average people is to stand in between an accused and the mighty state, as the last shield against tyranny short of recourse to arms. And like David standing in front of Goliath, it does not matter how powerful the state is, however air-tight its case, however artfully it has stacked the laws against the accused, however unconstitutional its manipulations, however blood-thirsty its prosecutors, or however complicit its judges. However much the state wants to strip the life, liberty, or property from the lone defendant, it can still be stopped by that one jury. Just a handful of citizens, if they know their true power, can grind the machine to a halt, and stop it cold, at least in that one case … if they but know of their own power.

And therein lies the problem. Though that absolute power to acquit is part and parcel of traditional trial by jury – is in fact inseparable from it – judges, prosecutors and the power elite have always resented this fact and have tried to suppress it. In effect, there has long been a power struggle between the people, seeking to preserve their rights and powers, and established state power seeking to usurp the power of the people and to enhance its own power. Despite the clear, well settled power of the jury to acquit, willful judges have cleverly argued that while the jury has the absolute power to acquit, they don’t have a right to (so say the crafty judges) and so judges are not required to tell the jury of the power it clearly has. But they don’t just omit that information, they actively mislead the jury by telling them the opposite – that they must convict if they find such and such facts to have been proven, that they must follow the law as the judge explains it, and that they may only consider the evidence presented to them. In other words, the judges, and the prosecutors, lie to the juries.

First, during jury selection (voir dire) the jurors are grilled by the prosecutor and the defense attorneys, and are often asked very intrusive personal questions. Seeking the lowest common denominator, prosecutors and judges eliminate intelligent, aware people, who are routinely eliminated via “pre-emptive strikes” which require no explanation, or “for cause.”

And, an increasingly common question is something like: Do you believe that the jury can judge the law? Have you heard of jury nullification? Can you agree to set aside your own convictions and follow the law, and convict the defendant if the evidence proves guilt? If you wish to avoid jury duty, an answer to the effect that Yes, you do understand your right to vote your conscience, will get you sent home. But, if instead, you wish to be seated, what should you do? First, say as little as possible. Do not volunteer information.

So, if the judge asks you if you can apply the law as he explains it, say “Yes.” You may believe the judge when he says “this is what the law is” (though judges will disagree on points of law) but no one can force you to convict against your conscience and better judgment. Certainly you can follow the judge’s instructions, so you are not lying by saying “yes” when asked that question, but you also know the well established truth that you can also acquit even in the face of the law as given by the judge, and in spite of the facts. You can just keep that knowledge to yourself without volunteering it.


Some may call this taking a “mental reservation” as in, Question: “Can you follow my instructions on the law?” Answer: “Yes” – but with a mental reservation (to yourself) of: I may believe your description of the statute law, but the higher law is the Constitution, if there is a conflict.

Others see it as simply retaining the knowledge of the fact that a jury can acquit even in the face of the judge’s instructions – which is well settled law. No acquittal can be overturned, even if the jury didn’t follow the law. The statute law may be as the judge describes it, but the judge has no power to dictate a verdict of “guilty” to the jury. If the judge requires an “oath” of the jurors which requires them to follow the law as given by the judge and to convict if the facts are proven, that oath is a false oath and is not enforceable.

As the Penn trial established hundreds of years ago, jurors may not be punished for their verdict. An attempt to punish a Colorado juror (Laura Kriho) with contempt of court for not being forthright during jury selection questioning (voir dire) ended when she was released by an appeals court ruling.

However, what has occasionally happened is that seated jurors have been dismissed for refusing to discuss a possibility of finding the defendant guilty, taking a clear jury nullification stance. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held, in 1997, that if you insist that you will acquit regardless of the evidence, you can be removed for being “incapable” of being impartial. However, if you express “reasonable doubt” about the evidence, or the credibility of the witnesses and informants, or the credibility of the police, in addition to questioning whether the law itself is unjust, the judge cannot remove you from the jury, because they can’t prove that you were determined to acquit regardless of the evidence. You might also suspect that evidence favorable to the defense has been withheld from the jury.

Jurors should be aware that if an acquittal is not possible, a hung jury is an acceptable outcome if a juror believes it necessary to prevent a conviction that would be unjust. A series of hung juries sends a signal to the legislature and to prosecutors that a significant portion of the population does not support that law. A mistake jurors sometimes make is to throw the prosecution a bone by convicting the defendant on a “lesser charge.” (Prosecutors often multiply charges on the hope that something will stick, and to encourage a plea bargain.) That can cost the defendant years in prison if the judge so decides at sentencing. If justice requires it, nothing short of an acquittal or hung jury on all counts is appropriate. It can take intestinal fortitude to stand alone but a single juror can hang the jury.

The power of the jury to vote according to conscience and judge the merits, fairness, constitutionality and applicability of the law itself, is the only real, undiluted power the individual citizens have in our system of government. If we are engaged in a struggle for our fundamental rights against governments on all levels, and we are, then we must view our role as partisan guerrillas, and we have a powerful yet peaceful tool at our disposal. It has been hidden from us, and we are intimidated into thinking it is not our right, but if we will summon the courage to grasp it, we can use jury veto power, or jury nullification, as a weapon in defense of liberty.

Frankly, when awake and aware lovers of liberty choose not to serve on a jury, they are leaving the battlefield with Goliath still standing, jeering at them as they walk away. By not serving, they are denying to themselves one of the critical “boxes of freedom” and a chance to sling one right between Leviathan’s eyes. If they don’t take that shot, what is left? Not much. The ballot box is a joke, the soap box, while still there, is also under relentless attack, with mainstream media now nothing more than Mordor’s mouthpiece. Why give up the jury box to the enemy? You know what comes next.

Serving on a jury should be viewed as a form of liberty guerrilla warfare in the current “soft” or cold war between the forces of liberty and the forces of tyranny. We’d better use it while we can before the war goes hot. Besides, It’s good practice. We need to exercise our liberty muscles and our own cunning and resolve in the face of adversity. Step into the ring!

We must close with the enemy and battle him in every arena, including in the courtroom. Give Leviathan no safe place, no place to let down his guard, and instead take the fight straight to him in a place where he thought he was supreme and could not be defeated. One juror, just one, can shut down all the gears, all the levers, and all the apparatus of unjust power, and make it stop. One juror can throw a critical monkey-wrench into the works. And if enough jurors do that, the cursed machine will be prevented from working at all. Just you, a lone liberty guerrilla, in a peaceful, bloodless, mini-revolution of conscience, can drive a dagger into the soft underbelly of the beast and set someone free. Talk about focus of effort! There can be no better time spent in the struggle to directly stop oppression.

April 25, 2011

Don Doig [send him mail] is a co-founder and vice president of the Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA). Stewart Rhodes [send him mail] is an Army Airborne veteran, former member of Rep. Ron Paul’s DC staff, a 2004 graduate of Yale Law School, and is the founder and president of Oath Keepers.

Copyright © 2011 by Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.


Sincere thanks go out to Don Doig, Founder of FIJA, for inviting me to co-author this article, and to Lew Rockwell, of for publishing it at his site.  The jury is a critical institution.  It is as fundamentally critical to liberty as is the militia, and as is our right to bear arms.  As the saying goes, we have “four boxes of liberty”: the soap box (freedom of speech and assembly), the ballot box, the jury box, and the cartridge box.  We must guard each of them with equal resolve and jealousy, for they truly are our great shields against tyranny.

Denial of the ancient right of jury trial was one of the causes of our Revolution, as was clearly stated in The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, written July 4, 1776 (commonly known as the Declaration of Independence), where the Founders condemned the King “For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury” and for claiming the power “to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws” (courts of admiralty).    Jury trial was an ancient right of Englishmen, considered by our Founders to be a non-negotiable right of the colonists, for which they were willing to fight and die.

And yet, even now it is under relentless assault, both by willful judges and prosecutors who deny the full right and power of the jury, as  discussed in our article, and and also by willful Presidents who illicitly claim the power to strip Americans of this fundamental right by designating us “unlawful combatants.”   First Lincoln, then FDR, and now Bush and Obama have claimed the power to apply the international laws of war to American citizens, precisely as if we were foreign enemies in wartime, and try us by military tribunal rather than by jury in a civilian, Article III court.   The more things change, the more they remain the same.  Our forefathers fought a bloody Revolution against such outrageous claims of power, and yet here we are, facing the same claim of power to subject us to a jurisdiction FOREIGN to our Constitution – the international laws of war.   And under this doctrine, Obama also claims the power to simply assassinate us, if he thinks it necessary for “national security.”

We must stand like a rock and refuse to give even a shred of legitimacy to any such outrageous claims of power, regardless of which party is in the White House.   And if the political and legal elites persist in this claim of power, we must resist it with as much fire and defiance as our Forefathers.   The right to jury trial is our last shield of liberty, and our last resort short of an appeal to arms and to the God of hosts.  Remember that, and act accordingly.  – Stewart Rhodes


Additional Information

Main NOVA Victim Information Section

How to Get Help After a Vicitmization Main Page

Other Resources: Links, Phone Numbers, and Readings



Research and Practice in Victim Services:

Perspectives from Education and Research


Ann Wolbert Burgess




Over the past several decades our awareness of the magnitude and the trauma of crime victimization has increased considerably.  The costs incurred by society include medical and psychological services to aid victim recovery, the apprehension and disposition of offenders, and the invisible climate of fear that makes safety a paramount consideration in scheduling normal daily activities.  In addition to the monetary costs associated with sexual victimization (see Prentky & Burgess, 1990; 2001), the impact of such abuse on the victim has been well-documented (Crowell & Burgess, 1996).


This presentation takes a historical perspective and review of the intersection between research and practice in victim services, particularly in the area of child sexual exploitation and abuse and the crisis in the Catholic Church of clergy abuse, among other areas.  It will review  rape victimization and victim services and some of the major contributions of researchers and practitioners in the understanding of the aftermath of victimization.



The Anti-Rape Movement: The Beginning

          The women's rights movement in the nineteenth century  was focused on the legal recognition of women to secure their rights to vote, to own and control property, and to participate in public affairs.  In the twentieth century the movement focused on confronting restrictions of women's personal lives.  Analysis of these restrictions began from "consciousness raising" groups (CR), a new organizing tool of the women's movement whereby women discussed their experiences and problems of being female in a modern society.  Often described by men as hot beds of radical feminism, the reality was simply attending such a discussion group was the most assertive act many of the women of that day were capable of taking.  But it was within the supportive environment of the CR groups that women found the courage to share private experiences never before shared, such as incest and rape (Largen, 1985).

          These anecdotal disclosures of former victims had a profound effect on their listeners.  The revelations represented an unprecedented breakthrough of the silence that had surrounded the topic of rape for centuries.  The act of rape has been an inherent part of women's lives throughout recorded history, a theme of literature, poetry, theater, art, and war.

          Police departments and rape crisis centers first began to address the crime of rape in the early 1970s when little was known about rape victims or sex offenders.  The issue of rape was just beginning to be raised by feminist groups and the 1971 New York Speak-Out on Rape had been held.  Susan Brownmiller (1975) wrote the history of rape and urged people to deny its future.  At this time. the general public was not particularly concerned about rape victims; very few academic publications or special services existed; funding agencies did not see the topic as important; and health policy was almost non-existent.

          The anti-rape movement began to attract women from all walks of life and political persuasions.  Various strategies began to emerge, one of them being the self-help program now widely known as the "rape crisis center."  One of the first such centers was founded in Berkeley in early 1972, known as Bay Area Women Against Rape (BAWAR).  Within months of the opening of the Berkeley center, similar centers were established in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Washington D.C., and Philadelphia.  Hospital-based rape counseling services began in Boston and in Minneapolis.  Centers soon were replicated and services flourished. Although volunteer ranks tended to include a large number of university students and instructors, they also included homemakers and working women.  The volunteer makeup usually reflected every age, race, socio-economic class, sexual preference, and level of political consciousness.  Volunteers were, however, exclusively women.  Among the women, the most common denominators were a commitment to aiding victims and to bringing about social change (Burgess & Frederick, 2002; Largen, 1985).  As Susan Brownmiller noted (1975, 397), the amazing aspect of the proliferation of the grass-roots women's groups was that such an approach to the problem of rape had never been suggested by men: That women should organize to combat rape was an invention of the women's movement.

          In retrospect, the history of the rape crisis centers in the United States has been one of enormous struggle.  The struggle was to overcome indifferences, apathy, changing social trends, and lack of stable resources, yet a struggle willingly engaged in from the belief in the rightness of the cause; a cause which, despite the struggles, had its share of successes.  Feminists identified a social need and a way of responding to it.  Centers, begun without role models to adopt, became role models themselves for other crime victims, specifically for battered women and their children.  Though never having reached the ultimate goal of eradicating rape through social change, they nonetheless were the instigators of social change essential to the rights of women (Largen, 1985; Burgess & Frederick, 2002).


Rape Law Reform

          Laws greatly shape public opinion and attitudes.  Legislation in the form of law reform can be both instrumental and symbolic.  Such was the case with rape-law reform, especially in conveying the concept of rape as an injurious, if not always physically damaging, act.  Changes in rape laws helped to influence attitudes both within the criminal justice and general communities, although some would argue that jurors/citizens still inclined to view rape in morality terms rather than criminal terms.

          United States criminal rape laws were derived from British common law.  Three elements needed to be proven: carnal knowledge of a woman by force and against her will. Two influential legal theorists were 17th-century jurist, Lord Chief Justice Matthew Hale and the Edwardian-era scholar, John Henry Wigmore.  Hale's belief that rape is "an accusation easily made, and hard to be proved, and harder to be defended by the party accused, though ever so innocent" was reflected in both American jury instructions and standards of proof (Hale, 1947, 634).  Similarly, Wigmore's concern about sexually precocious minors and unchaste women who fantasize about rape give rise to the corroboration doctrine, and influenced such practices as the routine polygraph examination of victims (Wigmore 1970).  Though neither man's assertions were supported by empirical data, they received wide spread endorsement by legal bodies.  As a result, United States law would reflect a concept of rape as a sexual rather than a violent offense and would impose a vast array of safeguards against false accusations by the turn of the 20th century (Largen, 1988).

          The need for rape-law reform was clearly noted by women's rights movement who were encouraging former victims to speak publicly about insensitive and indifferent treatment they had experienced in the criminal justice system.  These disclosures fostered a recognition for systematic change that women activists felt must begin with the law itself.  To this end, movement activists organized to develop a rape-law reform agenda, solicit public support for reform, and present their case to state legislators.  While the political climate was favorable to these citizen-initiated efforts, it was a growing presence of women and sympathetic men within the legal and lawmaking professions that reduced most of the resistance to change.  A review of rape-law reform by Largen (1988) suggested, among other things, that in most states, social concepts of sexual assault were changing more rapidly than legal concepts.  Again evidence of the radical shift in the concept of unacceptable behavior.

          A review of rape law reform in Canada held that the 1983 reform addressed some of the key issues relating to sexual assault, but that critical issues still remained.  These issues include underreporting of sexual assault, low founding, charging and conviction rates; the status of rape-shield rules; and the defense of honest but mistaken belief of consent.  Collective and social actions on the part of women's groups and education are seen as important policy tools to counter sexual assault (Tang, 1998).



Congressional Support

          Financial help came from Congress. In response to a rising crime rate and the growing community concern over the problem of rape, Senator Charles Mathias of Maryland introduced a bill in September, 1973, to establish the National Center for the Prevention and Control of Rape.  The purpose of the bill was to provide a focal point within the National Institute of Mental Health from which a comprehensive national effort would be undertaken to research, develop programs, and provide information leading to aid for the victims and their families, to rehabilitation of offenders, and, ultimately, to curtailment of rape crimes.  The bill was passed by overwhelming vote in the 93rd Congress, vetoed by President Ford, and successfully reintroduced.  The National Center was established through Public law 94-63 in July, 1975 and the chair of the first advisory committee to the new center was a nurse.

          By the late 1970's, the battered women's movement became an extension of the anti-rape movement and focused on male violence against a domestic partner.  Violence emerged as a public health issue with Surgeon General C. Everett Koop's convening of a workshop on Violence and Public Health in 1985.  The closing of the National Center for the Prevention and Control of Rape, however, in the late 1980s left a void for funding until 1994.  Again, organized efforts were needed to keep rape crisis centers operating and to lobby for governmental funding.  The importance of violence against women as a national problem was once again recognized by Congress in its 1994 passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) as part of its Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act and by President Clinton's establishment of an Office on Violence Against Women in the U.S. Department of Justice.  A Panel on Research on Violence Against Women was established by the National Research Council in 1995 to fulfill a congressional request to develop a research agenda to increase understanding and control of violence against women.  This report (see Crowell and Burgess 1996) highlights the major literature on the scope of violence against women in the United States, the causes and consequences of that violence, the interventions needed for both women victims of violence and male perpetrators, and funding to meet research goals.


History of Psychological Trauma

          The term "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder" came into the official nosology of the American Psychiatric Association in 1980 with the publication of the third edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.  The history of the development of this term is believed to date back to an account of Merlin of King Arthur's court.  He was said to be have been a wild man who went away to live alone in the woods for some years because he was affected by the sounds and sights of terrible battle.  He avoided people and lived as a hermit for several years, only to return refreshed and with his special powers.   In 1666, Samuel Pepys described his intense emotional reaction to having observed the London Fire. 

          The theme of traumatic memories haunting people after experiencing overwhelming terror has been a theme in literature from Homer (Shay, 1991) to Shakespeare's Macbeth Act V, iii.  By the late 1850s, Briquet suggested a link between the symptoms of hysteria  and childhood histories of trauma.  During this time, a small Anglo-Saxon literature emerged documenting responses to accidents (e.g.  "railway spine" after train accidents) and war trauma (soldier's heart).  The relationship between trauma and psychiatric illness, however, only began to be explored in the last two decades of the nineteenth century when neurologist Charcot lectured on the functional effects of trauma on behavior (see a review by van der Kolk, Herron & Hostetler, 1994).

          Charcot's student Pierre Janet undertook one of the first systematic studies of the relationship between trauma and psychiatric symptoms and delivered a major paper at the Harvard Medical School in 1906.  Janet realized that different temperaments predisposed people to deal with trauma with different coping styles.  He coined the term, "subconscious", to describe the collection of memories that form the mental schemes that include the person's interaction with the environment.  He suggested it was the interplay of memory systems and temperament that made each person unique and complex (van der Kolk, Herron & Hostetler, 1994).

          Although one of Freud's earliest published works was Studies in Hysteria, he later shifted from a PTSD paradigm of neurosis to a paradigm that centered on intra-psychic fantasy. In a later work, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, he once again addressed the issue of traumatic neurosis and looked at trauma as disequilibrium.  The history of the development of PTSD was intensified around war and combat stress.  Despite such recognition, though, systematic inquiry into the phenomenon of posttraumatic stress was remarkably late in coming.  It was not until 1980 when the condition was determined to be a separate and distinct diagnostic category by the American Psychiatric Association (see Everstine and Everstine (1993), Everly (1995), Wilson (1995), Briere (1997), O'Brien (1998) and van der Kolk, Herron & Hostetler (1994) for a further discussion of this history).


Sexual Abuse of Children 

          In 1857, Ambroise Tardieu, one of the foremost medicolegal experts of his day, published the first known forensic book on sexual assault of children.  During the second half of the nineteenth century, statistics were published in France, including the fact that between 1858-1869, 9125 people were accused of raping children (Bernard, 1886).


Outcome Indicators for Child Sexual Abuse.  According to victims and clinical research provided by experts in the field of child sexual abuse, the following statement is axiomatic: Sexually abused children constitute a very diverse group of individuals who suffered abuse and about whom few simple generalizations apply.  Perhaps Frank Putnam (2003) states is best when he says, "Childhood sexual abuse is a complex life experience, not a diagnosis or a disorder."  Citing a ten-year review of empirically-based research, Putnam notes that a broad range of adult psychiatric conditions have been clinically associated with child sexual abuse.  The problematic behaviors and neurobiological alterations may include dysfunctional sexualized behaviors including hyper or hypo sexuality, early pregnancy, HIV risk-related behaviors; altered affect regulation such as depression, suicidal preoccupation, explosive or inhibited anger; transient alterations of consciousness such as flashbacks; altered self-perception including helplessness, shame, guilt, and self-blame; altered relationships with others such as persistent distrust, withdrawal, failures of self-protection, and rescuer fantasies; altered systems of meaning including loss of sustaining hope, hopelessness and despair; and somatization (physical symptoms).


Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church.

          Considerable media attention has focused on sexual abuse committed by Catholic priests and members of religious orders.  Although the number of abusive priests (approximately 4% of all priests) was suggested by a research study conducted by John Jay College of Criminal Justice (2004), sexual abuse by religious leaders represents a particularly serious betrayal of trust, termed a "tragic wound to the Church" (Hanson, Pfafflin, & Lutz, 2004).

          Historically, the Church typically addressed abuse as an internal matter.  Abusive priests received sanctions and treatment from specialized Catholic service agencies, with relatively few of the offending priests becoming involved in the criminal justice system.  In recent years, the Catholic church reportedly implemented policies promoting disclosure of cases of abuse, and sexual offenders among the clergy were increasingly directed toward external agencies. 

          Although the recent revelation of clergy sexual abuse suggests an unusual and recent epidemic among the Catholic church, the historical record suggests this difficulty has plagued the church over centuries.  The recent effort of investigative reporters and adult survivors alleging sexual abuse by clergy, has led to an increased public awareness of the extent of the illegal sexual activity occurring in the church.  Opinion polls of Catholics in the United States have evidenced a critical view of the Church's administrative response to the crisis.  Despite continuing press coverage and civil/criminal litigation, research on priest offenders is virtually non-existent (Isely, 1997).

          Substantial evidence exists, in the historical and anthropological record, that the sexual use of children has a long history (Ames & Houston, 1990).  Early church history evidences a fear, by church authorities, of sexual contact between men and boys.  In 305 A.D., the Council of Elvira prohibited "corrupters of boys" from ever receiving communion (Berry, 1992; Quinn, 1989).  St Basil, a monk, issued strict penalties as he showed his concern about the sexual attraction of an adult monk toward his young male pupils.  This concern appeared justified, writes Isely (1997), considering the love poems written by tenth and eleventh century monks titled, "Paederastia" (Boswell, 1980; Quinn, 1989).  In the early middle ages, the Benedictine Order frequently practiced "child oblation" whereby a parent would donate their male children between the ages of five and seven to the monastery (Quinn, 1989).

          The Vatican, in response to the church crisis, convened a conference in April 2003, involving experts in the assessment and treatment of sexual offenders along with senior members of the church administration.  The external experts were asked to summarize current scientific knowledge concerning sexual offenders, and to respond to questions originating from practical decision faced by the church (e.g., how can potential child molesters be prevented from being priests? How effective is treatment for known offenders?).

          The Proceedings of the conference (Hanson, Pfafflin, & Lutz, 2004) state that sexually abusive priests share many features with other child molesters, but differences were also noted.  As with other child molesters, deviant sexual interests and alcohol abuse are common among abusive priests.  In contrast to other child molesters, priest abusers are typically older, better educated, and less antisocial (although more antisocial than other priests).  Whereas the victims of child molesters are typically girls, priests typically abuse adolescent boys (Hanson, Pfafflin, & Lutz, 2004).

          The limited available research suggests that the factors that predict recidivism among abusive priests are similar to the factors found among other sexual offenders, e.g., narcissistic and antisocial traits, deviant sexual interests, prior sexual offenses.  The sexual recidivism rates of abusive priests (approximately 5% after 10 years) appears somewhat lower than the rates observed for other child molesters (15% - 25% after 10 years) (Hanson, Pfafflin, & Lutz, 2004).


Contemporary Issues and Research Opportunities

          New issues for study continue to arise in the 21st century.  The research on three such issues present opportunities for both practitioners and service providers to further explore. 


Adult Male Victims.  The overwhelming numbers of adult male victims coming forward to disclose (delayed by decades) their abuse by clergy has challenged the victim services community.  Many rape crisis centers were unprepared to treat this new population of victims and thus a major research area is identified.


Media Reports of Traders and Travelers.  Traders and travelers are the latest group of offenders to prey on children.  A review of 225 media reports of such crimes illustrates the use of the Internet for child molesters to both gain access to erotica and child pornography as well as to child victims (Alexy, Burgess & Baker, under editorial review).


The Kobe Bryant Rape Charge.  Attitudes toward rape and what constitutes rape have been studied from a variety of ways.  The Kobe Bryant case - because of its celebrity status - provides an opportunity to study myths about rape in the 21st century as compared to the 1970s.  Students were asked their opinions as to the importance of 17 issues and the outcome of the case (Holmstrom, Burgess & Boersma, under editorial review).  The importance of the findings have three major implications.  First, the students placed great faith in the expertise and accuracy with which clinicians and others collect and record physical evidence. Second, students believed that discrepancies between interviews represented real discrepancies in an account as opposed to the reality that people often have different styles of interviewing and that might result in different answers.  Third, the students placed importance to the alleged victim's emotional problems indicating that this negatively affected her credibility.  Clinicians and services providers can implement these findings into their practice, e.g., paying attention to detail and accuracy in recording their findings, using an interview protocol, and reviewing the myths and realities of mental illness and victimization reports.

          In summary, a partnership between academic researchers and service providers presents an opportunity to advance the science of the field of victimology.  This presentation suggests an understanding of the history of several aspects of the field provides a foundation to continue its commitment to addressing the needs of victims.




          Ames, M.A. & Houston, D.A. (1990) Legal, social and biologic definitions of pedophilia. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 19(4):333-342.

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            Breuer, J, & Freud, S. (1895) Studies in hysteria. In J. Strachey (trans and ed): Complete Psychological Works, Standard Edition, vo. 2. London, The Hogarth Press.

            Briere, J. (1997) Psychological assessment of adult posttraumatic states.  Washingotn, DC: American Psychological Association.

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            Burgess, A.W. (2002) Violence through a Forensic Lens. King of Prussia, Nursing Spectrum.

            Burgess, A.W. & Frederick, A. C. (2002) Sexual violence and trauma: Policy implications for nursing. Nursing and Health Policy Review, 1(1):17-36.

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            Campbell, J. C., & Soeken, K. L. (1999). Forced sex and intimate partner violence: Effects on women's risk and women's health. Violence Against Women, 5(9), 1017-1035.

            Crowell, N. & Burgess, A.W. (eds.) Understanding violence against women. Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Science Press.

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            Everly, G.S., Jr. (1995) Psychotraumatology. In G.S. Everly & J.M. Lating (eds). Psychotraumatology: Key papers and core concepts in post-trauamtic stress. New York: Plenum.

Everstine, D.S. & Everstine, L. (1993) The trauma response: Treatment for emotional injury. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.

            Hale, M. (1847) The history of the pleas of the crown.

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            Holmstrom, L. L. & Burgess, A.W. (1978) The victim of rape. New York: Wiley.  2nd ed. published by New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books, 1983

            Isely, P.J. (1997) Child sexual abuse and the Catholic church: An historical and Contemporary review. Pastoral Psychology, 45(4):277-299.

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            Largen, M.A. (1988) Rape-law reform: An analysis. In A.W. Burgess (ed.) Rape and Sexual Assault II, New York: Garland Press, 271-292.

            Ledray, L. E. (1992). The sexual assault nurse clinician: a fifteen-year experience in Minneapolis. Journal of Emergency Nursing, 18, 217-22.

            Ledray, L. E., & Simmelink, K. (1997). Sexual assault: clinical issues. Efficacy of SANE evidence collection: a Minnesota study. Journal of Emergency Nursing, 23(1), 75-7.

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Current Controversies and Developments

in Victimology Research


Laura J. Moriarty

VirginiaCommonwealth University


Controversies in Victimology stem from at least four areas: “(1) a misunderstanding of the criminal justice system; (2) a general lack of knowledge regarding the criminal justice system, (3) too narrow a focus or perspective of victimology” (Moriarty, 2003, 117), and (4) a lack of evidence-based research on the controversial topics. While there are many controversies that can be discussed, this presentation will begin with a brief discussion of the controversial issues presented and outlined in the book entitled, Controversies in Victimology (Moriarty, 2003). Since the controversies have not yet been resolved and because there are numerous controversies that were not included in the book, I will present five other controversies that merit review as well. Two of these controversies will be presented in detail providing a description of the controversy, briefly outlining each side of the issue, presenting the most recent evidenced-based research on the topic, and concluding with possible ways to reconcile the debate. Thus, the goals of this paper are as follows: I intend to

·       outline and relate major controversies and recent developments in victims’-related research which can inform good victim-service practices,

·       identify areas of need for future research in victim services based on identified gaps in current knowledge, and

·       demonstrate and relate the importance of applying research findings to improve the efficacy of programs for victims and survivors of crime and violence.


Controversies in Victimology

In the text with the same title, there are several chapters that address controversial issues in victimology. As way of introduction, I will summarize a few of the controversies.

The controversial issue of balancing criminal victims’ rights with criminal defendants’ rights focuses on whether there really should be a “balance” between these rights, and if that balance can only be achieved by a constitutionally guaranteed set of rights. Orvis (2003) argues that those who see the balance as necessary, and thus advocate for a federal amendment, do so because:

·       A victim’s rights amendment will alleviate the trauma felt by crime victims who have traditionally been forgotten and revictimized by the CJ System;

·       A victim’s rights amendment will give the crime victim standing equal to the criminal defendant to appeal unjust holdings in criminal cases;

·       A victim’s rights amendment is necessary to counterbalance the rights granted to criminal defendants by the Bill of Rights, so that both are on equal footing in a court of law (Orvis, 2003, p. 7-10).


Orvis agrees in principle that victims should have certain rights, and he delineates these rights in his work. However, he is clear on the point that victims are guaranteed these rights through state law and amendments to state constitutions. He is adamantly opposed to what he sees as the natural conclusion to reconciling this debate, that is, to establish a federal constitutional amendment that would guarantee victims’ certain rights at the federal level.

     The basic arguments against supporting a federal amendment – that is, an amendment to the U.S. Constitution – focuses on Orvis’ concern that such an amendment would erode over 200 years of judicial doctrine. He states his opposition as:

·       …. There are plenty of state and federal laws already adequately protecting victims’ rights and a perusal of the case law doesn’t reveal any conflict between these rights and the defendants’ due process rights.”

·       A victims’ rights amendment is contrary to the common law tradition of separate criminal and civil law systems (Historical Argument)

·       A victims’ rights amendment will make the criminal justice system in general and the courts in particular less efficient and effective (Efficiency Argument)

·       A victims’ rights amendment will diminish the rights of those accused of crime that are guaranteed in the Bill of Rights (Due Process Argument) (Orvis, 2003, 10-13).


Another controversial issue is whether victims cause their own victimization. Whether this is referred to as victim blaming, victim facilitation, or victim precipitation, the debate focuses on whether victims are responsible for their own victimization because of behaviors that they engage in that might be considered “risky” behaviors. Eigenberg outlines the controversy focusing on the historical tendency to place responsibility for the victimization on the victim. She explains von Hentig’s typology that was based upon psychological, social, and biological factors where he argued that there were “born victims” just like there were “born criminals.” She further clarifies that according to von Hentig, “born victims were self-destructive individuals who solicited the action of their “predators” (1941: 303) …. (and that) women, as a group, were born victims because they were weak and easy prey” (Eigenberg, 2003: 15). The conclusion from von Hentig’s work is that victimization is a process of social interaction. There is reciprocal action between the victim and the offender.

     Others have expanded on this view of shared responsibility, developing typologies of their own. As Eigenberg points out the victim blaming often falls on a continuum with the model looking like this:


Victims Completely                                                    Victims Completely

Responsible                      ►       ►       ►       ►       Innocent                


          Eigenberg’s arguments against using victim blaming as an explanation for victimization, center on the inherent weakness of the conceptualization of the term (i.e., victim blaming). Her arguments focus on:

·       Tautological or circular reasoning. Eigenberg points out that those who study the interaction of the process of victimization do so using victims. She concludes, “They rely upon samples of victims to determine common characteristics which contribute to victimization, although these studies fail to evaluate the degree to which non-victims in the general population exhibit similar behaviors.”

·       Conceptual weaknesses in the concept of victim blaming.Eigenberg discusses the problematic nature of the “totally innocent victim” because this implies some degree of responsibility and we only know what could have been done to prevent a crime after the crime has been committed. She concludes, “It also implies that victims know how to prevent their victimization and ignores that many people in our society face disproportionate risk of victimization” (p. 19).

·       Undue Responsibility on Victims. Eigenberg’s argument here is that all risky behavior is not unavoidable. Thereby, it is unfair to place the blame on the victim when the actual events of living put some people at more risk than others.

·       Creates Culturally Legitimate Victims.We think that there is something wrong with those who are victimized, and we try to categorize what is different about victims and non-victims in an effort to say that the differences caused the victimization. To avoid victimization, the differences found in individuals or groups that are victimized must be changed. Eigenberg argues that this perspective where the victim is seen as being deficient leads to creating culturally legitimate victims. She states that this process makes it more acceptable for some people to be victimized (e.g., homosexuals) and in turn society is less willing to use its resources to do anything about it.

·       Excuses Offender Behavior and Diminishes Responsibility.Eigenberg’s argument here is that if there is any responsibility for the crime attributed to the victims, no matter how small, then the offenders escape the full responsibility of their acts. Offenders can use this to rationalize their behavior; “According to offenders, victims, then, ask for or deserved what they get; or at the extreme end of the continuum, they deny any harm whatsoever” (p. 21).


Victim-Offender Reconciliation Programs (VORP) have grown in number as victims’ rights advocates and restorative justice supporters have pushed for such programs. The idea beyond VORP is to bring the victim and offender together outside of the judicial process to possibly mediate the case. Usually only minor criminal cases are processed in this manner. The controversial issue here is with the program itself. Smith (2003) provides an excellent overview of the questions that have been raised about these types of programs. His concerns are listed in the form of questions and include:

·       Are Victim-Offender Reconciliation Programs Good for Victims?

·       Are Victim-Offender Reconciliation Programs Cost-Effective?

·       Is Victim-Offender Reconciliation Coercive?

·       Do Victim-Offender Reconciliation Programs Impact Recidivism?

·       Are Victim-Offender Reconciliation Programs Destructive to the Rule of Law?

·       Do Victim-Offender Reconciliation Programs Fail to Punish Appropriately?


Brief Summary of the Controversial Issues

As I said above, these are just a few examples of controversies that were included in the Controversies in Victimology reader. There are many other controversies as well, and I have selected five to present here but will only go into depth on two of the controversies.  The new controversies include:

·       Recounting Survivor Stories: Therapeutic or a Form of Revictimization?

·       Cyber-Surfing and Usage: Do the Benefits of the Internet Outweigh the Hidden Dangers of the Internet?

·       Stalking: Is this a Crime that happens only to the rich and famous?

·       Bullying: Is it Peer Child Abuse or Just “Boys will be Boys”?

·       Perceptions of Justice: Do Divergent Views of Legal Professionals and Therapeutic Care-Providers Shape the Expectations of Victims, and Contribute to their Disappointment with the Criminal Justice System?


Recounting Survivor Stories: Therapeutic or Revictimization?

Traditionally criminal justice professionals have argued that recounting victimization has the great potential to re-victimize the victim. In a recent study, Morgan and Smith (2005) examined victim participation at parole hearings. They looked at verbal and written statements made by victims during this process. What is important to this discussion is what they said about recommending whether victims should provide input at parole hearings. They state “… there is a downside of victim participation in parole release hearings. Since victim rights’ movement shifted from concentrating on minimizing the pains of “revictimization” and establishing adequate victim services to ease suffering to focusing more on the rights of victims to influence punishment of offenders (Viano, 1987; Smith and Huff, 1992), there is always the possibility of revictimization. As victims have fought for their right to participate, it is this very right that makes them relive the crime. Hence, if victims are going to continue to pursue their rights, care must be taken to minimize the pain and inconvenience of victims” (p. 359).

And while Morgan and Smith find recounting the victimization to be a source of re-victimization, others do not agree. Regehr and Alaggia (2005, p. 17) conclude that “testifying and preparing victim impact statements may permit the resurrection of painful memories, lending voice to the stories of victims and allowing for the possibility of working through recollections and reconnecting with self and others” (emphasis added). Furthermore, Pennebaker and his colleagues provide evidence “that personal self-disclosure is good for emotional and physical health. His book is filled with common-sense approaches to self-disclosure with scientific evidence that supports the position that writing about problems, emotional trauma, old emotional wounds, and/or traumatic events can improve health. It makes sense to hypothesize that such expressions of emotion around victimization may also improve mental and physical health” (Moriarty, 2005).


Benefits v. Hidden Dangers of the Internet

The Internet is a valuable resource that can “provide educational resources to aid school children with homework assignments through online encyclopedias and other reference materials; increase reading skills by providing access to interesting materials and suggestions for additional reading; improve technology and information skills; connect with places around the world to exchange mail with electronic pen pals and learn about other cultures and traditions; and locate parenting information and swap ideas with other families” (Bryce-Rosen, 2005). However, the internet can also be a very dangerous place. As Bryce-Rosen (2005) points out, “The advent of the Internet and the proliferation of the personal computer have brought about major changes in our society. The computer today can be the target of criminal activity such as the highly publicized hacking cases and malicious e-mail viruses.  It can also be used as a tool to carry out criminal acts such as hacking, counterfeiting, as well as the production and trafficking in pornography, including child pornography.”


Stalking: A Crime that Happens Only to the Rich and Famous?

Whenever we discuss stalking the first case that comes to mind is that of the famous, young, actor, Rebecca Schaefer, who was stalked and killed by an obsessed fan. But are only the rich and famous stalked? And what happens when we focus only on the rich and famous in terms of providing much needed services to those who are stalked but who are not of the same fame as Ms. Schaefer?

Roberts and Dziegielewski (2005) explored these questions in a recent article. An important observation made by these authors is that there is a lack of empirical research on stalking. Likewise little is known about the effectiveness of “methods of crisis intervention and technology to aid victims of stalking” (Roberts and Dziegielwski, 2005, p. 30). It is the apparent glib approach to stalking that is controversial. As Roberts and Dziegielwski discuss, we must first study this crime, in order to develop treatments that can be tested to gauge effectiveness, and “by learning to understand stalking behavior we can begin to anticipate the dysfunctional thought patterns that may surround this type of systematic thinking distortions and obsessions” (p. 41). 


Bullying/Peer Abuse v. “Boys will be Boys”

Should we really be concerned about “bullying” behavior? Some argue that it is just a rite of passage or something that is indicative of growing up: children and adolescents are testing the boundaries and bullying to see what they can get away with. Others argue that bullying really is a form of peer child abuse and it cannot be ignored because if it is, it can lead potentially to very dangerous and violent actions. These individuals site the relationship between being bullied and bullying with later school related violence such as school shootings.


Perceptions of Justice: Legal Actors v. Therapeutic Communities

What are the goals and objectives of the criminal justice system? Do the goals and objectives change depending on who you ask within the justice system? And how are these possibly divergent perspectives related to victim satisfaction with the criminal justice system?

These questions were explored in a recent study conducted by Regehr and Alaggia (2005). The authors were interested in knowing how divergent views found among the two key groups of professional – agents of the court and victim therapists/advocates –shape the expectations of the victims.

The authors found a great deal of divergence among the groups, and these divergent views impacted what the victim was told and what the victim expected from the criminal justice system. For example, the victim advocates and legal actors differ in what they see as the role of the victim in the process. Legal professionals understand that in a criminal proceeding the state is the victim; however, victim advocates/therapists think that crime has been committed against the victim, not the state, and as such, the victim should be the center of the process (Regehr and Alaggia, 2005). While these perspectives may be very accurate in terms of what each group feels is correct, there really is only one correct interpretation of how a criminal court operates. That is, the state is the victim in such matters. However, the bigger problem here is that this lack of understanding about the system leads to victims being disappointed when they discover that they are not the center of the process, and worse that they may even be only a very minor part of it.



          How do we reconcile these debates? To go back to the beginning, the controversies addressed here are the results of two things: Either a misunderstanding of the criminal justice system or a lack of knowledge, in general, about the system. Thus, it is our responsibility to educate victim service providers – from all types of agencies – about how the criminal justice system works. There needs to be an overview course that explains the fundamental principles of the legal system, distinguishes between criminal and civil courts, and provides an overall orientation to the court itself. While many curriculums focus on court orientation, and many researchers have listed court orientation as a much needed service, it appears as if the conceptualization of “court orientation” is different for the groups. Understanding the physical layout of the court is important, and knowing how the process takes place with the victim not being allowed in the courtroom are two issues that victim advocates know well and discuss appropriately. However, they also need to convey to victims a brief overview of the judicial system – so that the victims will not be dissatisfied with the process because they are expecting it to do something that it was not designed to do.

          With this in mind, I make the suggestion that the National Victims’ Assistance Academies that are being sponsored by OVC, include at least a brief introduction to the criminal justice system. Michigan is one such program that is doing something like this: In their 45 hour problem based learning experience, the curriculum includes special topics on the juvenile justice system, and Federal, State and Tribunal Justice Systems (among other topics).



Bryce-Rosen, C.E. (2005). “Identity Theft and Prevention.” Invited presentation and discussion for the Virginia United Methodist Women’s Group, March, 2005.

Burgess, A.W., Garbarino, C., & Carlson, M.I. (2005). Pathological teasing and bullying turned deadly: Shooters and suicide. Victims and Offenders, (preview issue), 1-14.

Eigenberg, H. (2003). Victim blaming. In Moriarty, L.J. (ed)., Controversies in Victimology. (pps. 15-24). Cincinnati, OH: Anderson Publishing Company.

            Morgan, K., & Smith, B.L. (2005). Victims, punishment, and parole: The effect of victim participation on parole hearings. Criminology and Public Policy, 4 (2), 333-360.

            Moriarty, L.J. (2003). Controversies in Victimology. Cincinnati, OH: Anderson Publishing Company.

            Moriarty, L.J. (2005). Victim participation at parole hearings: Balancing victim, offender, and public interest. Criminology and Public Policy, 4 (2), 301-306.

Orvis, G. (2003). Balancing criminal victims’ and criminal defendants’ rights. In Moriarty, L.J. (ed)., Controversies in Victimology. (pps. 1-14). Cincinnati, OH: Anderson Publishing Company.

            Regehr, C., & Alaggia, R. (2005). Perspectives of justice for victims of sexual violence. Victims and Offenders, (preview issue), 15-28.

            Roberts, A.R., & Dziegielewski, S.F. (2005). Changing stalking patterns and prosecutorial decisions: Bridging the present to the future. Victims and Offenders, (preview issue), 29-42.

            Smith, M. (2003). Victim offender reconciliation programs. Moriarty, L.J. (ed)., Controversies in Victimology. (pps. 103-116). Cincinnati, OH: Anderson Publishing Company.


Victim Assistance for American Citizens Overseas


Jane Nady Sigmon

Senior Coordinator for International Programs

 State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons



I am very pleased to have the opportunity to be with you today to talk about the United States Department of State’s program to assist American citizens who become victims of violent crime overseas.  This is a relatively new program that has become an important part of consular services for Americans.  This morning I am going to discuss some of the unique issues and challenges that arise when a person becomes the victim of crime while in a foreign country, the role of the U.S. State Department in assisting U.S. citizens overseas, and the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ new Crime Victim Assistance Program which has enabled the Department to expand and improve how we help American victims of crime around the world.  I am especially pleased to talk about this program because I joined the Department of State in June 2000 as the Department’s first victim assistance specialist and I have been responsible for developing the policies and procedures for assisting American crime victims overseas.  The program has evolved significantly and I am going to share some of what we have learned over the last five years. 


Global agreements that connect U.S. airlines with foreign carriers and the vast array of information on the Internet about foreign destinations have made international travel easier for everyone.  Utilizing these resources, tens of millions of Americans travel outside the United States each year to conduct business, to vacation in other countries, and to participate in cultural exchange and study abroad programs.  Many Americans are savvy frequent travelers with fluency in other languages and many are traveling abroad for the first time with no foreign language capability.  For most people foreign travel is a positive and enriching experience that goes without serious incident.  However, both experienced and inexperienced travelers have become the victims of violent crime while overseas. 


Types of Crime Overseas

Although we do not have statistics to report, our experience shows that Americans outside of the U.S. become victims of the same types of crime that they might experience in the U.S. – the full range of property and violent crimes.  These include theft of personal property and money, fraud, scams, robbery, hate crime, assault, rape, domestic violence, child abuse and exploitation, kidnapping, terrorist attack, and murder.  Each of these crimes presents additional issues when an American is the victim of the crime in a foreign country.  For example,

  • An American who is robbed at knifepoint of his or her passport, wallet, and plane tickets may feel unsafe and fearful and want to return home as soon as possible; however, the victim cannot travel without a replacement passport and new airline tickets. 
  • An American woman married to a foreign national who is abusive and living abroad may feel even more isolated because she is thousands of miles from family and friends.  She may not speak the local language and she may be living with or near her abuser’s family.  She may have many fewer or no options for assistance and safety in the country where she lives; domestic violence may not be a crime.  Economic abuse may make it impossible for her buy a plane ticket to return to the U.S.  She may not have possession of her passport, which is necessary for travel.  In some countries she may not be permitted to leave the country without the permission of her husband. 
  • An American woman who is sexually assaulted while touring in a foreign country may want to report the crime to police but may be afraid of how she might be treated.  She may want to obtain medical treatment and medication without anyone knowing, but she doesn’t speak the local language and her tour group is scheduled to move on to the next city early the next day.  She may feel that she has no where to turn for help. If she quickly returns home for treatment and decides that she wants her attacker brought to justice how can she report the crime?
  • The family of American who is murdered while traveling overseas may not be able to go to the country to accompany the victim home.  The distance and inability to see their loved one or go to the crime scene may exacerbate their sense of shock, disbelief, and denial.  Soon after being notified of the death by the U.S. consular officer in the country, the next of kin will be asked to make important decisions about disposition of the body of their loved one.  If they want to bring their loved one home for burial they will have to send funds to ship the remains to the U.S., often thousands of dollars.  The family is apt feel frustrated as they seek information about the investigation as the language barrier or inaccessibility of law enforcement personnel or time zone differences interfere. If they obtain the police report or the autopsy results these may be in a language they don’t read.  If they want to attend the trial, it will likely be at their own expense. 


The Impact of Crime Overseas

Our experience with hundreds of cases suggests that when an American becomes the victim of a crime while abroad the impact of the crime may be increased and victims often face issues that complicate or impede recovery.  The emotional impact of a crime may be magnified because the victim is far from family and friends who could provide emotional support and assistance.  Victims’ fears and anxiety, as well their sense of vulnerability, helplessness, and loss of control may be prolonged because they are in unfamiliar surroundings and do not know where to turn for help or where to go to be safe or to feel safe.  Not understanding the local language, customs, or culture and being unable to communicate their needs may add to the emotional impact. 

Many victims suffer physical injuries that require emergency medical treatment as the result of crime. The physical impact of a crime overseas may be worsened if the victim is not able to summon emergency medical assistance or access medical treatment due to language or other barriers. Calling 911 or its equivalent for emergency assistance is not an option in many places and if it is, the person responding may not speak English.  The limitations of medical facilities in many places in the world may necessitate that an injured American be evacuated to a medical facility in another country, which could delay critical medical treatment.  Many Americans are surprised to find that medical facilities overseas may require payment for medical expenses at the time of admission for treatment; accessing funds could delay treatment.  

The financial impact of a crime overseas may be compounded by an array of expenses, depending upon the nature of the crime, where it occurs, and individual circumstances.  For example, victims of crime overseas may incur expenses such as the following:

·       International telephone calls to loved ones for support;

·       Unanticipated changes in a planned itinerary or loss of a pre-paid vacation or trip;

·       Replacement of stolen airline tickets;

·       Extended stay in the country to be questioned by or give evidence to the police;

·       Emergency travel of loved ones to be with an injured victim hospitalized overseas;

·       Replacement of a stolen passport and personal property necessary for travel;

·       Emergency medical evacuation to a medical facility in another city or country that offers the type of treatment needed;

·       Translation of documents such as police reports, autopsy, or court proceedings;

·       Transporting the body of a homicide victim home;

·       Long distance telephone charges to get information about the criminal case;

·       Hiring an attorney to represent the victim in the criminal case; or

·       Returning to the country for criminal justice proceedings related to the case. In many cases this may entail multiple trips.


In addition, the emotional trauma associated with the crime may be exacerbated when the victim attempts to participate in criminal justice proceedings that are conducted thousands of miles from home, in a foreign language and in a foreign justice system.  Laws and criminal justice procedures vary enormously around the world and American victims are typically unfamiliar with how the criminal justice process works in another country.  Most countries do not have crime victims’ rights laws as we know them in the United States.  It can be very difficult for victims to get information about their case after returning home to the U.S.  Local police may not be allowed to make international calls.  In many countries there are no police-based or prosecutor-based victim assistance programs to provide victims with information about the criminal justice process or progress in the investigation or prosecution.  In some countries victims are expected to hire an attorney to represent them in the criminal case.  While this may facilitate access to information about the case, it is often an unwelcome expense for an American seeking justice. 


The Role of Embassies and Consulates in

Providing Victim Assistance

The expert group representing 40 countries that authored of the United NationsHandbook on Justice for Victims Crime recognized that becoming a victim in a foreign country often intensifies the sense of vulnerability and helplessness that victims experience.  To address this concern they included a discussion on the role of embassies, consulates and foreign missions in the section entitled “The Role and Responsibility of Front-line Professionals and Others to Victims” (Chapter III, L).  The Handbook explains that embassies and consulates should be prepared to assist their citizens who become victims while traveling or living abroad because these victims are likely to “seek advice and services from their own embassy or consulate”.  Further, the Handbook states:

“Embassy personnel should receive training on victim issues, including the impact of victimization and available compensation and assistance services.  The treatment that the victim receives from embassy personnel can have a significant effect on the healing process for the victim. Embassy personnel should be trained in appropriate ways to respond to victims, as well as appropriate referrals to agencies in both the foreign country and in the home country”.[1] 


This brief section of the Handbook highlights the unique role that consular personnel can play in meeting the needs of their countrymen who become victims of crime while abroad.  The State Department’s Crime Victim Assistance Program was developed to address the needs of American citizen crime victims in other countries. The program is based on an understanding of victim trauma and universally accepted principles of victim assistance that are presented in the Handbook, and builds on the foundation of consular services to Americans overseas that have been a critical role of the State Department for more than 200 hundreds. 


The Role of U.S. Consular Personnel Overseas

The most important mission of the Bureau of Consular Affairs (CA) is the protection of and assistance to U.S. citizens abroad.  CA’s Office of Overseas Citizens Services (CA/OCS) in Washington, DC and consular officers, consular agents, and local employees in U.S. embassies, consulates, and consular agencies in approximately 300 capitals, major cities, and tourist destinations around the world are charged with this responsibility.  The State Department’s consular officers are empowered by their consular commission and the articles of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (1963) to assist U.S. citizens in the foreign country in which they serve. 

Over the years, consular personnel have applied a proactive case management approach to providing critical assistance to U.S. citizens abroad in a time of need.  To do this effectively U.S. consular personnel become knowledgeable of and maintain contact information for medical services, legal resources, mortuaries, law enforcement, prosecutors, immigration control, and other governmental agencies in the country where they work.  These contacts are essential because they are called upon to provide a vast array of assistance to U.S. citizens in non-emergency and emergency situations.  For example, consular personnel assist Americans overseas by:

  • Adjudicating the citizenship of a child born to a U.S. citizen in a foreign country and issuing a consular report of birth abroad;
  • Notarizing documents;
  • Providing a list of local attorneys who speak English;
  • Overseeing the payment of Federal benefits to beneficiaries who live abroad;
  • Visiting and monitoring the condition of Americans who are arrested and/or imprisoned;
  • Issuing a replacement passport when it is lost or stolen overseas;
  • Assisting an American to find medical care related to an illness, an accident or other incident;
  • Arranging for a medical evacuation of an injured American to a medical facility in another city or country that has the necessary type of medical care;
  • Helping an American to contact relatives, friends, an employer, or bank who could transfer funds in an emergency;
  • Providing loans for emergency medical and dietary assistance;
  • Arranging for loans to repatriate destitute Americans to the United States;
  • Providing consular assistance to an American minor who has come into the care and custody of a foreign government agency;
  • Notifying the next-of-kin of the death of an American abroad, and assisting as necessary in the disposition of remains in the foreign country or in the U.S, issuing a Report of Death, and assisting with the safekeeping and disposition of the deceased American’s property overseas; and
  • Providing crisis management and assistance to Americans following a disaster, including arranging for the evacuation of Americans, as necessary.


          Because of their status, knowledge of local resources, laws, and customs, and extensive experience in dealing with an array of difficult and traumatic situations involving Americans overseas, consular personnel are in a unique position to assist American victims of crime in the immediate aftermath of a crime and through the foreign criminal justice process. 


Consular Assistance to Crime Victims

The State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs established its crime victim assistance program to improve and expand consular assistance to crime victims overseas on the strong foundation of consular services.  With initial funding from the U.S. Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime, CA/OCS hired its first victim assistance specialist in June 2000 to provide the expertise needed to develop the program.  In May 2001 CA/OCS issued written guidelines for consular assistance to crime victims based on the lessons learned from scores of crime victim cases in which the victim assistance specialist worked with consular officers who were helping victims of crime in countries all over the world. 

When a U.S. citizen is the victim of a crime overseas and the incident comes to the attention of a U.S. Embassy or consulate, establishing contact with the victim is a priority.  Although the actions that consular officers perform vary based on the type of crime, resources and other factors specific of the locale where the crime occurred, and the individual needs of the victim, the general guidelines on victim assistance give consular personnel a consistent framework for providing assistance.  The guidelines help officers to organize and prioritize their response by applying three universally accepted principles of victim assistance: Safety and Security; Ventilate and Validate; and Predict and Prepare.  Applying these guidelines consular personnel assist victims working within the context of local infrastructure, services, and laws.

Consular assistance is based on an understanding of the potential impact of crime on victims, the unique issues that arise in overseas cases, and the importance of approaching the victim with empathy and in a nonjudgmental manner.  Consular personnel can be an important source of emotional support and reassurance to a traumatized victim by listening to the victim, helping the victim to feel safe, and providing information about what will happen next.  This helps the victim to regain a sense of control and begin the recovery process. 

Consular personnel often coordinate with the local government and other resources.  Their knowledge of local resources is important in helping the victim to get needed services to address immediate medical and physical needs.  They may also assist with practical consequences of the crime, such as helping the victim to contact family or friends, obtain funds if money was stolen, contact airlines about needed changes, facilitate the cancellation of stolen credit cards, or change hotel rooms if needed to feel safe.

Because of the vast geographic areas covered in many consular districts, it is not always possible for a consular officer or local employee to respond in-person to assist a crime victim.  In these cases consular personnel may be in telephone contact with the victim, other Americans close to the victim, local officials, and medical and other professionals to coordinate needed assistance. 

The victim assistance specialists in Washington, DC, often work with consular personnel at post to identify resource options and make suggestions about how best to meet the needs of a victim in a particular case.  Referrals may be made to local victim assistance resources, if available, and to specialized victim assistance programs in or near the community where the victim lives in the United States.  Referrals may include rape crisis counseling programs, homicide survivor support groups, shelter and assistance programs for battered women, a child advocacy center for child abuse diagnostic and treatment, or a therapist for trauma counseling. 

Many violent victims are referred to the crime victim compensation program in the state where they reside because about half of the states pay compensation to their eligible residents who are victims of crime overseas[2].   Victims of terrorism overseas may be referred to their state compensation programs (all states provide compensation to eligible victims of terrorism) and to the DOJ Office for Victims of Crime which is developing regulations for the new International Terrorism Victim Expense Reimbursement Program.  When appropriate, referrals are also made to the foreign victim compensation program[3] in the country where the crime occurred; however, not all of these programs consider foreigners to be eligible applicants and some programs cover terrorism only.  

The State Department has no funds for victim services, but the CA/OCS victim assistance specialists have identified other sources of funds for victims of crimes overseas.  For example, some crimes committed against Americans overseas are Federal crimes (e.g., kidnapping, terrorism, and certain crimes against children) and victims may be eligible for emergency assistance for victims of Federal crime.  These funds, authorized by the Victims of Crime Act, are provided by the Office for Victims of Crime to the Federal Bureau of Investigation Office for Victim Assistance (FBI/OVA) for use in emergency situations for which no other funding is available. 

In addition, two relatively new non-profit organizations have provided funds to pay for expenses of American crime victims overseas.  The private foundation called “It Happened to Alexa”[4], which was founded to pay the travel expenses of a support person to accompany a sexual survivor to a trial that was far from the survivor’s home, has paid the travel cost of several sexual assault victims and their support person to return to a foreign country for criminal justice proceedings.  The American Domestic Violence Crisis Line[5] is a new resource for American women who are victims of domestic violence overseas.  This organization provides counseling and advocacy for abused American women overseas through an international hotline.  The organization has also raised private funds which have been used to pay for emergency travel of women who have no funds to escape an abusive relationship and return to the U.S.

The vast majority of crime committed against Americans overseas fall under the jurisdiction of the foreign government.  Consular personnel can help a victim to make a police report, if needed, and express the interest of the U.S. government in the expeditious and proper handling of the case by local authorities.  Occasionally, foreign law enforcement responsible for investigating a crime against a U.S. citizen may request the investigative or forensic assistance of U.S. Federal law enforcement through the U.S. embassy.  Law enforcement assistance may be provided on a case-by-case basis.

Although consular personnel cannot provide legal advice or represent victims in court, they can provide information about the foreign criminal justice process in the country where the crime occurred.  They can also serve as a point of contact for information on progress in the criminal case and court proceedings in many countries.  If the victim returns to the country to testify in criminal court proceedings, consular officers can also assist American victims, when asked.  The assistance provided may include helping the victim to identify safety concerns and raising these with local authorities, and accompanying the victim to the trial, when possible, to provide support.  Consular officers can also help the victim to obtain information about whether and how the local government will provide funds to pay the victim’s travel expenses for criminal justice proceedings such as identifying a perpetrator or testifying in court.  Many countries do not have funds for this and there is generally no U.S. government source to fund such travel.  The above mentioned foundation, It Happened to Alexa, has brought new resources to address the lack of funding by providing financial assistance to sexual assault victims to travel abroad in several cases.


Creating a Permanent Program and Training Personnel

In the five years since it was initiated, the Crime Victim Assistance Program has evolved into a recognized component of consular work and is now a part of the State Department’s policy and procedures manual and training programs.  In early 2004 the Consular Affairs Crime Victim Assistance Program Resource Notebook, which contains general guidelines for crime victim assistance, information about assistance and compensation resources, and specific assistance guidelines for victims of five different types of crimes (sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse, homicide, and kidnapping/hostage-taking), was sent to the consular section of every State Department overseas post.  In December 2004 the Guidelines for Victim Assistance issued in 2001 became a part of the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) with the addition of a new chapter, 7 FAM 1900, entitled, Crime Victim Assistance.  CA/OCS now has three victim assistance specialist positions to support the work of consular officers in individual cases around the world and to conduct training.

The first training course focused on crime victim assistance for consular officers was conducted at the State Department’s training center, the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), in May 2001, for 25 consular personnel from embassies and consulates around the world.  This three-day pilot victim assistance course was expanded to five days and is now a permanent course at the FSI, Consular Assistance to Crime Victims.  The crime victim assistance course has been offered to consular personnel at FSI and in various regions of the world several times a year in one of three forms: the comprehensive five-day course that includes site visits to local victim assistance programs; the two-and-half day course; or the one day overview.  In addition, crime victim assistance is included as a special topic in basic and advanced courses for consular personnel. 

As a result of these efforts hundreds of consular officers, consular agents, and local employees serving at U.S. posts overseas and in Washington, DC have received training in consular assistance to crime victims in the last five years.  While this represents a great accomplishment the need for training of personnel overseas is an ongoing challenge because consular officers rotate every few years to new assignments.  The program has also attracted the attention of our colleagues in other countries.  Consular representatives of Great Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office and a representative of the Canadian Justice Department Centre for Crime Victims have also observed the training and received copies of the Consular Affairs Crime Victim Assistance Program Resource Notebook


Providing Information to the Public

To increase awareness of how consular personnel can help in the aftermath of a crime overseas, CA/OCS developed a brochure, Help for American Crime Victims Overseas, which can be found on the CA/OCS website (, is available at overseas posts, and is disseminated widely.  The brochure encourages Americans to contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if they become the victim of a crime, clarifies what consular personnel can do to help, and provides information about specialized resources available to crime victims.

In addition to assisting Americans in the aftermath of a crime, the CA/OCS website provides information about health and safety conditions in more than 200 countries so that Americans can make informed decisions about travel – before they leave the U.S.   Consular Information Sheets for each country contain country-specific information about resources, safety and crime issues, entry requirements, the location and contact information for the U.S. embassy and consulates in the country.  The website also lists Travel Warnings and Public Announcements issued by the Department to convey information about dangerous or unstable conditions affecting a country or short term or imminent threats.  Further, CA/OCS also encourages all Americans to register on-line before traveling abroad.  Entering basic information such as name, passport number, destination, and dates of travel on the CA/OCS website can greatly facilitate assistance to Americans in an emergency overseas. 


The State Department’s Crime Victim Assistance Program has focused new attention on the needs of U.S. citizens who suffer serious physical injuries and emotional trauma as a result of crime while overseas.  The goal of the program is to promote a consistent response to American citizen crime victims by providing consular personnel – who are the first line of response to Americans in distress overseas – with information and training on effective victim assistance strategies.  In five years, CA/OCS has developed and implemented a victim assistance program in 300 posts around the world.  While the program has enabled consular personnel to provide effective assistance in hundreds of cases, we are still learning how best to help American crime victims and I believe the program will continue improve and expand in the years ahead.


The Primordial Victimization:

Spanking by Parents and It’s Effects on Children


MurrayA. Straus

Family Research Laboratory

Universityof New Hampshire


Why Should Victimologists Pay Attention to Spanking?

Spanking and slapping a child has recently been made illegal in several countries, but as part of the civil code, not the criminal code.  These no-spanking laws are intended as a statement of national policy and as a vehicle to provide funds for educational efforts to reduce the amount of spanking.  Therefore, spanking and other forms of corporal punishment by parents is technically not a crime in any country.  In addition, the harmful effects of spanking are small compared to the effects of other kinds of  violent victimization of children, such as physical and sexual abuse.  Nevertheless, spanking needs to be on the agenda of victimology research and victim services because:

·       Over 90% of American children are spanked, making it the most prevalent form of violent victimization of children

·       Children are typically hit for many years – in the USA, on average until they are about 12 years old, i.e. about 12 years of victimization

·       The cumulative effect is very large because of the large number of children who experience spanking and because of the repetition of the victimization for many years. 

·       Being hit by parents is a violation of the rights of children as defined in the United Nations charter on children’s rights

The purpose of this paper is to help  the process of putting spanking and other legal forms of corporal punishment on the agenda of victimologists. It addresses the following five questions:

  1. What is corporal punishment (CP)?
  2. How prevalent is CP by parents?
  3. How effective is CP in correcting and teaching?
  4. Are children who are spanked really harmed?
  5. What would a world without CP be like?


Definition of Corporal Punishment (CP)

Corporal punishment is the use of physical force with the intention of causing bodily pain, but not injury, for purposes of correction or  control (Straus 2001).  Examples include spanking, slapping a child’s hand, grabbing or squeezing hard, ear or hair twisting shaking, jerking, and shoving the child.  Hitting a child with a “traditional” object such as a belt, paddle or hair brush is also legal in every state of the United States, provided the child is not injured.  Corporal punishment has been the norm for thousands of years, and still is.

Proverbs 13:24  say "He that spareth his rod hateth his son; but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes”    Deuteronomy 22;12 says "This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious.  He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.  Then all the men of the town shall stone him to death. 

In 18th century England, Susanna Wesley wrote to her son John, the founder of the Methodist Church about how he and his siblings were brought up: "When they turned a year old..., they were taught to fear the rod and to cry softly...." (cited in Miller and Swanson 1958:10) 

          In modern America,  a majority of parents believe that CP is sometimes necessary, and books which advise parents to spank, such as “To Spank Or Not To Spank” (Rosemond 1994)and “Dare To Discipline” (Dobson 1992)sell millions of copies every year.


How Prevalent is CP by Parents?

          Although public opinion is turning against CP, especially in respect to hitting older children, about a third of American parents hit infants, and over 90% hit toddlers (see Figure 1 from Straus and Stewart (Straus and Stewart 1999). In addition, parents do it often – an average of over three times a week for toddlers (Giles-Sims, Straus, and Sugarman 1995)and about four times a year among the smaller number of parents who use CP with teenagers (Straus 2001).   This is a world-wide pattern.  Among the university students in 19 nations 57% recalled CP before age 12, and the percentages in those 19 countries ranged from 13 (Leuven, Belgium) to 73% (Washington, DC, USA).


How Effective is CP in Corrections and Teaching?

          A deeply ingrained element of American culture (and probably also the culture of many other societies) is the belief that CP works better than other methods of discipline.  Even people who are opposed to using CP tend to believe it is more effective.  However, this belief is completely contrary to the results of empirical studies that have been available at least since 1957 when the classic and widely read study Patterns Of Child Rearing (Sears, Maccoby, and Levin 1957)was published.  Examples of studies since then include Fower and Chapieski (Fower and Chapieski 1986)and Larzelere and Miranda (Larzelere and Merenda 1994).  The Larzelere and Miranda study is particularly important.  First, the technical quality is excellent.  Second it clearly shows that CP is not more effective in preventing repetition of the misbehavior than non-violent methods of disciple.  Finally, it shows the power of the cultural belief because, despite his own research results, Larzelere continues to advocate CP.


Are Children Who Are Spanked Really Harmed?

          The studies showing that CP is not more effective in preventing repetition of the misbehavior can also be interpreted as showing that CP is just as effective as other methods.  Therefore, why not spank?  It is because many studies, including recent longitudinal studies, have clearly shown that in the long run, it is counterproductive.  True, for some children, a spanking ends the misbehavior once and for all.  But on average, the effect is to increase the subsequent level of misbehavior, as shown in Figure 2 (from Straus, Sugarman, and Giles-Sims (Straus, Sugarman, and Giles-Sims 1997).  In short, although spanking stops the misbehavior in the immediate situation, in the longer run spanking increases the probability of antisocial behavior (see Figure 2).   This and other empirical studies in Beating The Devil Out (Straus 2001)and The Primordial Violence (Straus 2005 in press)provide empirical evidence on many harmful effects, such as slower cognitive development,  depression, violence against dating partners, violence against marital partners, and conviction for committing a serious crime.


What Would a World Without Spanking Be Like?

In 1979 Sweden passed the first no-spanking law.  Since then, twelve other countries have followed.  However, the educational effort to implement these laws has varied.  For this reason, and because most are recently passed laws, the effectives and effects of prohibiting CP can only be evaluated for Sweden.  The results for Sweden show that, contrary to many who in 1979 warned that Sweden would become a country with kids out of control, the opposite has happened.  Not only has CP decreased tremendously, but there have also been substantial decreases in crime, drug use, and suicide by Swedish children and youth (Durrant 1999; Durrant 2000).

          In the United States, although almost all parents continue to spank or slap toddlers, other aspects of CP have declined to half their level in 1975.  See (Straus 2004)for an explanation of the continuing 90+% percent of parents who hit toddlers.)   Victimologists, can contributed to ending CP by addressing the issue when providing services for victims and by research on how to prevent this most prevalent of all types of victimization.  When we have achieved a world without spanking, there will be many benefits, starting with the elimination of the primordial victimization, and continuing with a reduction of many other types of victimizations, such as bullying, school failure, depression, physical abuse of children, and violence against dating and marital partners.


Dobson, James C. 1992. The new dare to discipline. Wheaton, IL:

Tyndale House Publishers.

Durrant, Joan E. 1999. "Evaluating the success of Sweden's corporal

punishment ban." Child Abuse & Neglect 23:435-448.

—. 2000. "Trends in youth crime and well-being since the abolition of corporal

punishment in Sweden." Youth & Society 31:437-455.

Fower, Thomas G. and M Lynn Chapieski. 1986. "Childrearing and

impulse control in toddlers: a naturalistic investigation." Developmental Psychology 22:271-275.

Giles-Sims, Jean., Murray A. Straus, and David B. Sugarman. 1995.

"Child, maternal and family characteristics associated with spanking." Family Relations 44:170-176.

Larzelere, Robert E. and Jack A. Merenda. 1994. "The effectiveness of

parental discipline for toddler misbehavior at different levels of child distress." Family Relations 43:480-488.

Rosemond, John K. 1994. To spank or not to spank: A parents'

handbook. Kansas City: Andrews & McMeel, A Universal Press Syndicate Company.

Sears, Robert R., Eleanor C.  Maccoby, and Harry Levin. 1957.

Patterns of child rearing. New York, New York: Harper & Row.

Straus, Murray A. 2001. Beating the Devil out of Them: Corporal

Punishment in American Families And Its Effects on Children, 2nd Edition. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.

—. 2004. "Children should never, ever, be spanked no matter what the

circumstances." Pp. chapter 9 in Current Controversies about Family

Violence, edited by R. J. Gelles and D. R. Loseke. Thousand Oak, CA: Sage.

—. 2005 in press. The primordial violence: Corporal punishment by parents,

cognitive development, and crime. Walnut Creek, CA: Alta Mira Press.

Straus, Murray A. and Julie H. Stewart. 1999. "Corporal punishment by

American parents: National data on prevalence, chronicity, severity, and duration, in relation to child, and family characteristics." Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review 2:55-70.  Also as "Prevalence, chronicity, and severity"  2004, in Murray A. Straus,  The primordial violence: Corporal punishment by parents, cognitive development, and crime. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.

Straus, Murray A., David B. Sugarman, and Jean. Giles-Sims. 1997.

"Spanking by parents and subsequent antisocial behavior of children." Archives of pediatric and adolescent medicine 151:761-767.  Also as "The Bomerang Effect"  2004, in Murray A. Straus, The primordial violence: corporal punishment by parents, cognitive development, and crime. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press., Vita.



A Business Intervention Assisting Individuals

 Experiencing Interpersonal Violence


Theresa M. Benson

The University of Akron



Interventions to decrease the occurrence of interpersonal violence often focus on offering shelter and support systems to victims or treatment for perpetrators.  Although a main barrier to leaving a situation involving interpersonal violence is financial dependence, interventions which incorporate places of employment are overlooked.  This presentation reviews the literature regarding the vocational behavior of low-income individuals experiencing interpersonal violence at home, highlights the potential benefits to businesses and victims for a meso level business intervention, then provides a suggested business outreach program that could assist these individuals.


Vocational counseling literature contains much empirical and qualitative research on vocational behavior, but has largely ignored the implications of interpersonal violence upon vocational behavior.  One has to look outside the vocational counseling psychology literature to find empirical research on this topic.  Unfortunately, the little research that exists on this topic focuses on the vocational behavior of women experiencing interpersonal violence.  This paper focuses on the vocational behavior of women with an understanding and expectation that future research needs to consider the vocational behavior of men experiencing interpersonal violence.  In addition, this paper considers the economic costs of interpersonal violence, and provides a suggested business intervention. 

Although both men and women experience interpersonal violence, women are two to three times more likely to report pushing and shoving, and 7 to 14 times more likely to report that a partner choked them, beat them, or tied them up (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000).   The National Violence Against Women Survey (NVWAS), a random digit-dial telephone survey of 8001 men and 8005 women, found that 28.9% of 6790 women and 22.9% of 7122 men had experienced some type of intimate partner violence during their lifetime.  The U.S. Department of Justice reports that intimate partners commit 13,000 acts of violence against women in the workplace each year (1996).  Hensing and Alexanderson (2000) cited studies several studies which found that “a comparatively high proportion (70% - 77%) of women has told a close friend of their experience of abuse, whereas only about one third has told a professional about the event” (p.2).  Clearly violence against women is prevalent and warrants research to determine the implications on women’s vocational behavior.

In reviewing literature from other disciplines, the bulk of empirical research focuses on how economic distress is associated with interpersonal violence (Fox, Benson, DeMaris, & Van Wyk, 2002), how labor participation for women impacts interpersonal violence (Brush, 2003; MacMillan & Gartner, 1999), and the association between low-income earnings, poverty, poor health and work (Romero, Chavkin, Wise, & Smith, 2003).  With the passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996, which established maximum limits on receipt of federal benefits, researchers have begun looking at welfare-to work transition and the consequences of interpersonal violence on a woman’s ability to transition from welfare-to-work (Brush 2000; Meisel, Chandler, & Rienzi, 2003; and Nam & Tolman, 2002).

          Lloyd and Taluc (1999) conducted research on 824 women in a randomly selected survey in a low-income area of Chicago.  This study found that “women who experience domestic violence in their adult relationships were more likely to have experienced spells of unemployment, to have had more job turnover, and to suffer more physical and mental health problems.  They also had lower personal incomes and were significantly more likely to receive public assistance than women who did not report domestic violence” (p. 385).   In an empirical study by Coker and colleagues (2002), data from the National Violence Against Women Survey (NVAWS) was analyzed to determine the physical and mental health effects of intimate partner violence for women.  When analyzing the association between interpersonal violence and chronic health conditions, Coker and colleagues (2002) found that physical interpersonal violence was associated with a history of chronic disease and mental illness for women.  In addition, the experience of physical interpersonal violence correlates with a woman’s perception that chronic illness interfered with activities during the week.  A journal article by Hensing and Alexanderson (2000) appears to expand on the research by connecting the physical abuse to chronic physical and mental illness, then demonstrating how these illnesses lead to an increase of absences.  They concluded that it is not the abuse that leads to sickness absence, but the mental and physical illness associated with interpersonal violence that leads to sickness absence.  Much of the research in this area refers to a bidirectional relationship between socioeconomic status and interpersonal violence.  Research studies have shown how lower economic status serves as a catalyst for interpersonal violence.  On the other hand, interpersonal violence leads to chronic physical and mental illness which results in longer periods of sickness absence.  These longer periods of sickness absence can contribute to unemployment, underemployment and/or inability to receive job promotions for those women able to maintain a full-time job despite the abuse.  Without gainful employment that pays a living wage, women who are subjected to interpersonal violence may find it difficult to leave their abuser.

          The cost of interpersonal violence exceeds an estimated $5.8 billion each year.  These costs include nearly $4.1 billion in the direct cost of medical and mental health care, as well as nearly $1.8 billion in indirect costs such as lost productivity (CDC, 2003).  In addition, victims of interpersonal violence lose a total of nearly eight million days of paid work, which is the equivalent of 32,000 full-time jobs (CDC, 2003).  For companies concerned about cutting business costs, developing work safety plans and interventions to assist individuals experiencing interpersonal violence could prove useful

          When developing an intervention, I considered the financial impact that domestic violence can have on companies that employ women who are victims of interpersonal violence, the low incidents of women victims reporting interpersonal violence to professionals, and the mental illness associated with interpersonal violence that leads to absence from work.  This intervention would target managers and direct supervisors of an organization and consist of an eight hour in service training.  This training would provide four hours of education on interpersonal violence, a three hour experiential component where supervisors and managers will be placed in the role of victim of interpersonal violence, then finish with one hour of training on how to provide referrals for the Employee Assistance Program to employees who miss work.  With this intervention, I hypothesize that supervisors and managers will overcome the fundamental attribution error and provide resources to women who are subjected to interpersonal violence.  In addition, these women will utilize these resources which will enable them to cope, while reducing the number of days they miss work.  This study is designed to overcome the fundamental attribution error that supervisors and managers may use in evaluating employees who miss work.  In addition, the study is designed to reduce absenteeism, and hopefully the reduction in absenteeism will provide the women experiencing interpersonal violence with the financial wherewithal to leave their abuser.



Participants and procedures

          In this intervention, participants consist of supervisors and managers of a company with over 250 employees and a minimum of two office branches, which are located in the Midwest.  The supervisors and managers in the experimental group take a test to measure attitudes and knowledge of interpersonal violence prior to an eight hour training on interpersonal violence.  They take another test after the training.  The eight hour training consists of four hours of didactic training on interpersonal violence.  After the first four hours, the participants take part in an interactive role play, where each participant receives the opportunity to play the role of a victim of interpersonal violence.  Each participant will need to navigate the system in order to leave the abusive situation. 

Through this simulation, participants will discover the difficulties faced by victims of interpersonal violence when they attempt to leave their abuser.  In the final hour of training, supervisors and managers will receive instructions on how to refer individuals to the Employee Assistance Program when they have missed more than five days of work within a one month period. This instruction would include the use of positive labels that focus on the women’s strengths as an employee.

The control group will take a test to measure attitudes and knowledge of interpersonal violence, but will not receive any training on interpersonal violence.  The purpose of the intervention is to shift the attitudes of supervisors and managers toward women who may be victims of interpersonal violence.  In addition, victims of interpersonal violence, who have supervisors and managers that went through the training, will report fewer missed days of work than those who had supervisors and managers without training.



          The supervisors and managers, who are part of the intervention, will take a pretest and posttest in order to measure attitudes and knowledge about interpersonal violence before and after the interpersonal violence training.  The supervisors and managers that are part of the control group will take a test to measure attitudes and knowledge about interpersonal violence.  Results on the pretest of the experimental group will be compared with the results of the control group to determine if both groups are evenly matched in terms of attitudes and knowledge of interpersonal violence.  The posttest of the experimental group will provide an indication if attitudes and knowledge improved after the eight hour training.

          Counselors at the Employee Assistance Program will keep track of the number of individuals who use the service for six months following the procedure.  The counselors will fill out a questionnaire that will detail the reason for the contact, the demographic information of the caller (including yearly income), as well as where the individual is employed.  In addition, the supervisors and managers will carefully track absences of employees over the six month period.  The information collected from the EAP will be compared to the attendance sheets from the employers to determine if a reduction in absences occurred for the branch that experienced the intervention.

This study lacks internal validity because it is conducted in a real world setting.  However, the study has high external validity because the researcher controls the variables and conducts the study in the real world.  The threats to the external validity include the lack of a random sample.  Every supervisor and manager does not have an equal chance of being selected because this study creates the experimental group and control group based on company branch location.  One company branch is the control group, the other company branch is the experimental group.  Another problem with the study is that one branch may inadvertently have more employees experiencing interpersonal violence than the other branch.  A variety of interactions between the treatment, persons, settings, and time can all cause threats to the external validity of the study.  In addition, supervisors and managers have no way of determining which employees who miss more than five days have been subject to interpersonal violence.  They have to apply the same intervention to all employees equally and hope that the women who are experiencing interpersonal violence receive the intervention and act upon it.



Brush, L.D. (2003).  Effects of work on hitting and hurting.  Violence Against Women, 9, 1213-1230.

Coker, A.L., Davis, K.E., Arias, I., Desais, S., Sanderson, M., Brandt, H.M., & Smith, P.H. (2002).  Physical and mental health effects of intimate partner violence for men and women.  American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 23, 260-268.

Fox, G.L., Benson, M.L., DeMaris, A.A., & Van Wyk, J. (2002).  Economic distress and intimate violence:  testing family stress and resources theories.  Journal of Marriage and Family, 64, 793-807.

Hensing, G. & Alexanderson, K. (2000).  The relation of adult experience of domestic harassment, violence, and sexual abuse to health and sickness absence.  International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 7, 1-18.

House, J.S. (1977).  The three faces of social psychology.  Sociometry, 40, 161-177.

Lloyd, S. & Taluc, N.  (1999).  Effects of male violence on female employment.  Violence Against Women, 5, 370-392.

MacMillan, R. & Garner, R. (1999).  When she brings home the bacon:  labor force participation and the risk of spousal violence against women.  Journal of Marriage and the Family, 61, 947-958.

Meisel, J., Chandler, D., & Rienzi, B.M.  (2003).  Domestic violence prevalence and effects of employment on two California TANF populations.  Violence Against Women, 9, 1191-1212.

Miller, R.L., Brickman, P., & Bolen, D. (1975).  Attribution versus persuasion as a means for modifying behavior.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 3, 430-441.

Nam, Y. & Tolman, R. (2002).  Partner abuse and welfare receipt among African American and Latino women living in a low-income neighborhood.  Social Work Research, 26, 241-251.

Pettigrew, T.F. (1991).  Toward unity and bold theory:  Popperian suggestions for two persistent problems of social psychology.  In C.W. Stephan, W.G. Stephan, & T.F. Pettigrew (Eds.), The future of social psychology (pp.13-27).  New York:  Springer-Verlag.

Romero, D., Chavkin, W., Wise, P.H., & Smith, L.A. (2003).  Low-income mother’s experience with poor health, hardship, work, and violence:  implications for policy.  Violence Against Women, 9, 1231-1244.

Ross, L., & Nisbett, R.E. (1991).  The person and the situation:  Perspectives of social psychology.  New York:  McGraw-Hill.

Taylor, S.E. & Fiske, S.T. (1975).  Point of view and perceptions of causality.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 32, 439-445. 

Sexual Assaults and Eating Disorders


Corine M. Charm

CaliforniaState University Monterey Bay




This study assessed twenty-two clinicians, dietitians, and nutritionists reporting the eating habits of 527 patients they see in their practice. A survey was used to collect information about the participants’ patients eating habits and sexual history. The sample population was drawn from persons who work in Orange, Laguna Beach, Hermosa Beach, Monterey, and Carmel, California. The results of the study reveal the degree of relationship between the incidence of sexual assault and the development of Bulimia Nervosa (BN). Recent studies have shown that there is a positive correlation between BN symptom otology and incidences of sexual assault.



This research describes the appearance of BN in subjects who are reportedly victims of prior sexual assault. The study explored the degree of relationships between the development of BN and prior sexual assault. According to Vitiello and Lederhendler, bulimia nervosa is categorized as an eating disorder. It is estimated that in the United States, five to ten million women and approximately one million men have an eating disorder (Vitiello & Lederhendler, 2000, p. 777). For the purpose of this study, I focused on symptoms of BN in women, therefore only data regarding women subjects has been collected.

The research question, “Does sexual assault influence the development of BN in victims?” has been answered by a comprehensive review of the existing literature on this topic and an analysis of the data collected for this project. Past research suggests that there is a positive relationship between the incidence of sexual assault and the development of BN in victims. Bailey and Gibbons (1989), found that child abuse was notably related to the development of bulimia. Dansky et al., (1997), studied 3006 women. They found marked increase in the development of BN among women who had been through forcible rape. This capstone study is important because it will add to the existing body of knowledge about BN and sexual assault. The purpose of this study is to discover the effects of sexual assault on BN.

          Family systems theory (Bowen, 1959) demonstrates a way of understanding present situations in terms of past relationships or family histories. Family systems theory is the foundation for this research.The word “family” can be defined in many ways. "Family" may be viewed as the immediate family with whom the individual lives, the extended family of relatives and friends, and the community at large. This study suggests that behaviors by family members towards the victim influence the victims to hold themselves accountable for abuse. Family systems theory seeks to describe the impact of family interactions on the development of BN.

          Family systems theory suggests that individual behavior throughout life is more closely related to the functioning of the family of origin. Critics argue that, “the causes of Bulimia Nervosa remain unknown although there is probably a small genetic contribution. The pressures to be thin and resulting eating patterns that are regarded as normal are probably part to blame” (Rowan, 2002, P. 2). Rowan contends that the desire to be thin and attempts to restrict weight are the triggers that provoke the illness.

Bowen’s theory moves beyond cause-and-effect thinking to a more comprehensive understanding of the multiple factors, which interact across time to produce problems or symptoms, such a BN. Further, family systems theory postulates that the degree to which individuals may be able to exercise some choice over responding to emotional input, may be predicted by an understanding of the functioning of the family unit. Using this theory as a basis for the study assists the research’s focus on sexual assaults and family relations.


Literature Review

          Bulimia Nervosa consists of recurrent episodes of binge eating (eating over a period of time and an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat in a similar period of time). Bulimia affects 1%-3% of the population (Polivy & Herman, 2002, p. 189). According to Polivy and Herman, it is not uncommon for the bulimic to consume in one to two hours, 20,000 calories (2002, p. 188). Binges stop with self-induced vomiting, abdominal discomfort, social interruption, abuse of cathartic or diuretic drugs or extreme fatigue and sleep. Self-induced vomiting has been reported with a “frequency as high as 40 times per day” (Polivy & Herman, 2002, 188). The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-IV dictates that for the bulimic to be diagnosed as having BN, the binge and purge cycle needs to have been continuous for at least three months with an occurrence rate of twice per week.

          There has been significant research on the topic of BN, yet few articles seem to delve into the causes. As the researcher, my interests encompass the causes of BN development. Interpersonal experiences that have been most frequently linked to the development of eating disorders include abuse, trauma, and teasing. Self-reports of having been teased about one's appearance or body shape are associated with increased eating disorder symptom otology. “The joint occurrence (and possible mutual influence) of stressful life events and affective deficiencies such as low self-esteem, depressed mood, generalized anxiety, and irritability may be particularly pathogenic for BN” (Everill & Waller, 1995, p. 6).

          In a study conducted by Everill and Waller (1995), concluded that Childhood sexual abuse did not lead to the development of a bulimic disorder. Although childhood sexual abuse did not appear to lead to the development of BN, Everill and Waller stated that childhood sexual abuse and BN do appear to have a connection; however, childhood sexual abuse is also associated with depression and other psychological disturbances.Not surprisingly, all of these problems are more likely to be connected to childhood sexual abuse in concurrence with other physical and emotional abuse, as well as when the family does not provide support (family systems theory).

In a study conducted by Bailey and Gibbons (1989), surveying 294 female and 248 male undergraduates is relevant to this study, because the results showed the relationship between bulimic symptoms and victimization to determine whether victims of rape, sexual molestation, or child or partner abuse were more likely to be bulimic than those who have not been victimized. Bailey and Gibbons found that only child abuse was notably related to bulimia, although all relationships were in the predicted direction. Different from clinical impressions, the effect of sexual molestation on severity of bulimic symptoms was negative, but not statistically significant.

The results of Dansky (1997) study on 3006 women showed that lifetime occurrence of completed, forcible rape for subjects with BN was 26.6%, while 13.3% for subjects without BN. Adversely, Pope and Hudson (1992) had not found that bulimic patients show significantly higher prevalence of childhood sexual abuse than control groups. Pope and Hudson conducted areview of the scientific literature and found that neither controlled nor uncontrolled studies of BN found higher rates of childhood sexual abuse, than were found in studies of the general population that used comparable methods.

How might abuse lead to eating disorders? It has been argued; abuse induces intolerable emotions and challenges identity (Fairburn et al. 1999). Eating disorders serve as desperate attempts to regulate overwhelming negative affect and to construct a coherent sense of self when internal structures are lacking. Eating disorders are seen as coping mechanisms favored by women who do not have more constructive ways of dealing with personal crises (Fairburn et al. 1999).

How does BN serve to deal with continuing emotional or identity problems? By refocusing one's attention onto weight, shape, and eating, one enters a domain in which one can gain some emotional control. The BN patient gains emotional relief by bingeing (and then by purging). More recent theorists harmonize that an extreme need to control both eating and other aspects of behavior is a common attribute of BN (Fairburn et al. 1999).  Gaining a sense of control and pride in one's ability to control one's eating overcomes the feeling of being taken over by thoughts of food or of lacking control of one's thoughts, eating, and weight.    



          The participants in this study are female clinicians, dietitians, and nutritionists. These subjects practice in Orange, Laguna Beach, Hermosa Beach, Monterey, and Carmel, California. I interviewed 22 individuals who work with persons with a known eating disorder. These professionals disclosed their findings regarding 527 patients. The assessment tool consisted of 25 questions focusing upon fear of weight gain, avoidance behaviors, preoccupation with food, vomiting behavior, use of food as a control, child sexual abuse, incest, and any type of inappropriate sexual behavior.

          A survey has been constructed for the purpose of collecting data about patients seen in a clinician, dietitian, or nutritionist office. The questions were derived from many sources. Although all questions were slightly changed to fit this study, the basis of the questions came from various sources. Ten questions came from a survey created by Dr. Robert Huffer at Chapman University, California. Eight questions used were developed for the eating attitude test (EAT-26). The remaining seven questions were constructed for this research.



          Health providers I interviewed said that an average of 38% (figure 1.1) of their clients who exhibit symptoms of bulimia nervosa have also been victims of childhood sexual assault, and67% (figure 1.2) from the same population reported some type of inappropriate sexual behavior. For the purpose of this survey, I defined inappropriate sexual behavior as anything the client did not want to have done to them, did not want to do to another, or did not want to witness any type of sexual act, but were made to do so. The findings regarding incest survivors and persons suffering from BN were insignifican.



          Not yet having a Bachelor’s degree, I was unable to interview the clients themselves. In the future, I intend to interview persons suffering with bulimic symptoms. Although I was able to obtain information regarding 527 patients through interviewing just 22 professionals, I believe this study could have delved deeper into the bulimics mind, if I were to go directly to the source. However, if I were to go directly to the source, I do not believe I could have obtained information regarding 527 persons.

          In summary, my results are inconclusive at this point, but I cannot rule out sexual assault as a contributing factor to the onset of eating disorders. So, I feel it’s worth while to conduct a study on a larger scale using a random sample which I intend to do in an effort to try and better understand the conditions that individuals live with who have been victims of sexual assaults. I want this to not only be the best it can be, but to be something useful to me and my fellow social and behavioral scientists. It is a welcome addition to the broad body of knowledge surrounding BN. My belief centers on if we know the causes, or some of the causes, it will be easier to address and treat the eating disorder itself. Eating disorders are a symptom of some psychological issue; I want to discover that psychological issue hiding behind food.



Bailey, Carol A., & Gibbons, Stephen G. (1989) “Physical victimization and bulimic-like symptoms: Is there a relationship,” Deviant Behavior: Vol. 10, No. 4, pp. 335-352.

Dansky, Bonnie S.; Brewerton, Timothy D.; Kilpatrick, Dean G.; &

O'Neil, Patrick M. (1997) “The National Women's Study: Relationship of victimization and posttraumatic stress disorder to bulimia nervosa.” International Journal of Eating Disorders: Vol. 21, No. 3, pp. 213-228

            Everill, J. & Waller, G., (1995) “Reported Sexual abuse and eating

disorder pathology: A review of the evidence for a causal link.”

International Journal of Eating Disorders: Vol. 18, pp.1-11

            Fairburn, C. G.,& Cooper, P. J. (1984). The clinical features of

bulimia nervosa. British Journal of Psychiatry, 144, 238-246.

Keel, P. and Klump, K. (2003) “Are eating disorders culture-bound

syndromes? Implications for Conceptualizing Their Etiology,” Psychological Bulletin: Vol. 129,  No. 5,  pp. 747-769

            Polivy, J. and Herman, C.P. (2002) "Causes of eating disorders,"

Annual Review of Psychology: Vol. 53, pp. 187-213.

Pope, Harrison G.; Hudson, James I. (1992) “Is childhood sexual abuse a risk

factor for bulimia nervosa?” American Journal of Psychiatry: Vol. 149, No. 4 , pp. 455-463

            Vitiello, B. and Lederhendler, I. (2000) "Research on eating

disorders: current status and future prospects," Biological Psychiatry: Vol.

47, No. 9, pp. 777-86. 



Violence and Death at the Border


Esther Chavez Cano

Casa Amiga Centro de Crisis



For about ten years, since the coming of the foreign factories, the city of Juarez has suffered from serial killings.  The victims have mostly been young girls in their late teens and early 20s who work in the factories. Because preserving evidence and the remains of these girls has been severly lacking, the exact number of deaths is not known; however, the estimates are from about 300 to 400.  The offenders have not been arrested and the phenomena continues. Casa Amiga has cared for those who are the survivors and has tried to make changes in the city to prevent these atrocities. Due to the magnitude of the problem, these efforts have been largely in vain.



Geographic Situation

Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, is located at a driving distance of five minutes from the border with the United States.  Its geographic situation represents for thousands of migrants the opportunity to cross the Rio Bravo and live the American dream or work for the maquila industry.

          Ciudad Juarez has a population of 1,253,000 inhabitants, many of which reside at the desert without the most basic services such as water and energy.  With regards to security this border is nationally and internationally known for its violence towards women, as well as for that of narcotrafic.

El Paso, Texas, the bordering city, has a population of 800,000 inhabitants, a first world infrastructure, and its labor force receives a salary of U$5.35 per hour.  It is also considered the second safest city in the United States.

The killings of women in Ciudad Juárez, as well as the domestic physical, verbal, sexual, and psychological violence experienced by females in their labor places, through sexual harassment, undesired touchings, proposals or labor threats, could be analized as permissible social conduct accepted socially and juridically. It  takes for granted unequality among men and women and accepts as a natural fact the power of men over women.


Women and the Maquila Industry

          By the end of the 60’s, a number of large multinational companies settled in México with a strong labor participation by women.  This labor market was established by governmental policy at the northern border, adjacent to California, Arizona and Texas.  At present Ciudad Juárez houses 375 maquilas, most of which are American, and generate 180,000 jobs—60 percent women, 40 percent  men.  Altogether men and women receive a daily salary of US$4.00 for a 9-hour shift. Age of workers varies between 14 and 40 years (4), and although the Federal Labor law prohibits working minors, a permit is solicited from parents under “special conditions” which are never enforced.


Killings at the Border

          In this urban scenery, the murder of 400 women between 10 and 30 years of age since 1993 up to this date, cannot be understood as an isolated fact of industrial work.  Data of non-governmental organizations and some private research show that between 17 and 20 percent of victims are maquila workers.(5)

In accordance with multiple statements gathered by the press throughout several years, the death of these women has been considered by several employers and by the authorities in charge of investigation, as the consequence of loss of moral values, due mainly to their life style—that is dressing, dancing, going out at night, etc.--.  There is an invisible but prevailing existence of an official speech which separates good from bad women, encapsulating as bad women those who work second and third shifts, go out to places where drug and alcohol are served, those who do not have a father or husband to defend them.  Impresion is that this “bad women” can be assassinated.

          Ciudad Juárez is the obligatory cross point of much of the drug consumed in the United States.  In this transit the big cartels have infiltrated the most high social stratums of México at government and enterprise levels.  The result of tightest security measures implemented at the border by the United States as a consequence of the fatal events of September 11 is that narcotrafic pays drug coming from México with drug. Therefore, México has become  a consumer country with the corresponding social disruption and lack of hope in youth.  500 gangs live in Ciudad Juárez who rather risk their freedom crossing drugs through the international bridges at the El Paso-Ciudad Juárez area for US$500.00,  than make US$40.00 for a 45-hours job at the maquila.



          The economic policies set forth by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank support huge profits at macro level, while millions of people lack the means to cover fundamental needs such as roof, water, and energy. This has produced during the last two decades an important transformation of rural and urban population in México. Main characteristics are industrialization of medium size cities and an increase in the migratory dynamic, whose main characteristic is the redistribution of population.

          In Chihuahua, the migratory flow mainly comes from the adjacent states of Coahuila and Durango, Veracruz and other southern states.  This growth carries a number of severe problems of infrastructure, water shortages, quality of housing, insufficient services, contamination, lack of schools and medical assistance.


Public Policy and Corruption

          There is not a clear safety policy in Ciudad Juárez which emphasizes prevention.  On the contrary, it is precisely the authorities who have caused a situation of impunity and mistrust which has become impossible to eradicate. Amnesty International has documented situations in which the relatives of assassinated women have marched hand in hand with the assassins asking for justice.  The Mexican Commission for Human Rights, the Interamerican Commission for Human Rights and Amnesty International have also documented the use of torture as a way of solving the women’s crimes. Several Special Fiscals in charge of  investigation have reported that assassins are at large and that Supervisors prohibited them to carry on the corresponding investigations.

          Why are these accusations not investigated? Whom do they protect? Are the assassins members of the maffia, the government, or the private sector? Why is not the problem  investigated in depth?.  We do not have an answer.  It is profoundly infuriating and very painful to watch that each time there are more and more mothers walking judicial offices in demand of justice.  Every time there are more orphans who do not undestand the lack of presence of their mothers.  Millions of tears have been cried, hundreds of national and international accusations have been made, while impunity and lack of justice prevail casting a shadow on the homes of those who were born in poverty and will die in pain and lack of hope.


Casa Amiga

Now, I would like to speak to you of another type of death.  The one that kills the hope for thousands of women, girls, and boys, who have been victims of incest, violation, beatings, fractures, and unending humiliation.  That is the silent death on which we could write terror stories, that silent death which is hidden because it is considered “private”.

          Casa Amiga Centro de Crisis started operations 6 years ago to provide psychological, legal and medical attention to survivors and relatives of any type of violence.  Despite the fact that more than 170 women have been killed by husbands or companions, the authorities have not still found the means to open a place able to offer safety and attention to battered women and their families.  Casa Amiga opened the first shelter in Ciudad Juárez approximately one year ago, with a limited capacity of 10 families—60 persons--, who receive psychological, medical and legal attention, as well as clothes and food for free.  We require economic support in cash or otherwise, for this shelter which represents a place of tranquility and learning of new ways of life without violence.

          On the other hand, the number of fathers or husbands condemned for domestic violence is minimal, due mainly to lack of capacity of defense of the victims, as well as a deficient legislation highly conservative and men-oriented. The judicial system reinforces and maintains the idea that the family household is private and therefore whatever happens inside its walls is also private.

          In order to change this culture, Casa Amiga has a comprehensive prevention program.  It visits schools, universities, maquilas, communities and churches with the idea of showing violence.  Casa Amiga wishes to transform the patriarcal culture in our society, into a society which allows happy homes,--not private households for torture. This can be considered utopic, but we insist in the hope that half the world reaches the equity to which it is entitled.


Media Images of Victimization:

A Comparison of Canadian and American Newscasts


Ken Dowler

WilfridLaurier University at Brantford




The public is inundated with images of violence, crime and victimization. The media is primarily occupied with the offender, while the victim is often neglected, ignored or minimized. Compared to official statistics, crimes involving children, the elderly, multiple, female and white victims are disproportionately reported in the news media. In essence, the media is largely responsible for the creation of victims and the victimization experience. Despite the important role the media has in the construction of victimization, there are relatively few studies that examine the portrayal of victims within the news media. Furthermore, there are no studies that examine the differences between Canadian and American coverage of victims. Therefore, the purpose of this research is to systematically and critically explore the presentation of victims in local television newscasts. Specifically, the goal is to explore similarities/differences between American and Canadian newscasts. The results suggest that there are minor differences in the portrayal of victims on American and Canadian newscasts. The most important distinction is that victims presented in Canadian stories receive less sensational coverage. In addition, American newscasts are more likely to present female victims and younger victims, while Canadian newscasts present older and male victims. Although there are differences in quantity, further analysis reveals little qualitative differences between the portrayal of gender, race or age. In both Canadian and American markets, victim descriptions are incomplete and are rife with stereotypical images. Victim portrayal is dependent on whether the victim is perceived as “innocent” or “blameworthy.” Although culpability is not always stated, many subtle clues are presented to give the impression that the victims are in some way accountable for their victimization. Moreover, female victims are considered more “newsworthy” than male victims. How  ever, the portrayal is contingent on the legitimization of the victim, which involves the perception of innocence, vulnerability and credibility. In terms of race, both Canadian and American newscasts employ racial stereotypes to explain crimes involving minorities, while minorities are often blamed for the victimization experience. Finally, elderly victims and children receive more attention and sympathy within the news media. 


In the Oscar winning documentary, Bowling for Columbine, director Michael Moore argues that there are huge differences between Canadian and American news coverage of crime. Moore implies that responsible crime coverage lowers fear of crime among Canadians. Although, it is an interesting thesis, there are relatively few studies that examine these differences. For instance, Dowler (2004a) finds only nominal differences within crime coverage at the local level. The most significant finding is that American crime stories are more sensational than Canadian stories. However, the portrayal of victims is not examined (Dowler, 2004a). Therefore, the purpose of this study is to explore variations in victim portrayal within Canadian and American local newscasts.   

Historically, victims have been ignored within the news media. The focus of crime stories is placed on the crime, offender or the police investigation (Surette, 1998). Media analysts argue that press selectivity is framed by the need for atypical and entertaining stories (Mawby and Brown, 1984). Consequently, the reality of victimization is often distorted, minimized or misrepresented. For example, compared to official statistics, crimes involving multiple victims, children, elderly victims, white victims and high status victims are disproportionately reported in the news media (Dowler, 2004b, Sorenson et al., 1998; Weiss and Chermak, 1998; Jerin and Feilds, 1994; Chermak, 1995; Kumar, 1993; Graber 1980; Humphries, 1981; Marsh, 1991; Mawby and Brown 1984; Pritchard and Hughes, 1997; Dixon and Linz, 2000; Romer et al, 1998; Winkel, 1990). Moreover, there is intense debate over the portrayal of minority and female victims.

A number of researchers contend that the news media over-represent female victims (Graber, 1980; Humphries, 1981; Mawby and Brown, 1984; Chermak, 1995; Weiss and Chermak, 1998; Kumar, 1993; Sorenson et al., 1998; Pritchard and Hughes, 1997).       Female victims receive more attention than their male counterparts and some media pundits argue that they are more newsworthy (Chermak, 1995). However, the portrayal of female victims is open for debate. Feminist scholars argue that female victims are depersonalized, demeaned, marginalized and are in some way responsible for their victimization.  For example, a number of studies reveal female victims are held culpable, especially in cases of domestic violence (Edwards, 1987; Jones, 1994; Meyers, 1997) and sexual assault (Abrams, Viki, Masser, & Bohner, 2003; Burt, 1980; Costin, 1985; Cowan and Curtis, 1994; Deitz et. al., 1984; Mayerson and Taylor, 1987). Consequently, feminist scholars argue that the media normalizes violence against women (Carll, 2003; Anastasio and Costa, 2004; Meyer, 1997; Stone, 1993).  For example, Guerard and Lavender (1999) contend that the news media depersonalizes women, negates responsibility of perpetrators, and creates fear in all women. Essentially, sympathy for the female victim is subtly reduced and culpability is increased (Guerard and Lavender, 1999; Anastasio and Costa, 2004; Voumvakis & Ericson, 1984).

Conversely, not all media analysts agree that female victims are trivialized or marginalized when compared to male victims. For instance, McManus and Dorfman (2005) dispute critical feminist scholars’ contention that the news media devalue female victims of violence. Although intimate violence is reported less frequently and with less depth than other types of violence, these stories rarely blame female victims or mitigate suspect blame (McManus, and Dorfman, 2005). Moreover, an early study of Canadian newspapers reveal that male victims are more likely to blamed than females for violent crimes (Weimann and Gabor, 1987).

          Media reports may be influenced by ethnic and racial factors (Winkel, 1990). Many studies find that white victims are overrepresented within crime news (Chermak, 1995; Romer et al, 1998; Sorenson, Manz, and Berk, 1998; Weiss and Chermak, 1998; Dixon and Linz, 2000; Pritchard and Hughes, 1997). Media analysts argue that there are three reasons why white victims are overrepresented.  First, news producers contend that the majority of their viewers are white. They further argue that competition for ratings forces them to focus on dramatic stories that feature victims in which the audience can easily identify. Therefore, they argue that the demands of the audience propel the disproportionate coverage (Pritchard and Hughes, 1997). Second, reporters may be desensitized to African American victims. In the minds of news creators, the stereotypical image of “black on black” violence occurring in the “ghetto” does not make for compelling news (Chermak, 1995).  Third, media analysts suggest that an ethnic-blame discourse exists within the mainstream media. Essentially, minorities are held culpable for their victimization experience (Romer et al. 1998; Van Dijk, 1993). For instance, minority victims are often portrayed with negative images and engaged in illegitimate activities (Humphries, 1981). In sum, minority victims are either ignored or minimized, while being held responsible for their victimization (Weiss and Chermak, 1998).


The Study

          Stratified sampling is employed to collect 100 newscasts from four markets, which represented two Canadian markets (Toronto & Kitchener-Waterloo), as well as two American markets (Detroit & Toledo). Overall, the sample included 400 local television newscasts, which consisted of 1042 crime stories. The primary technique employed in the study is content analysis. Several variables are created to examine story characteristics. Variables include: the type of crime; lead story; live story; reporting of a weapon; local or national story; length of story; reporter’s race and gender; stage of crime (pre-arrest, arrest, court/sentencing, post-sentence); presence of interviews; number of interviews; race and gender of victim/offender; reporting a motive; presentation of fear; presentation of outrage/sympathy; presentation of sensationalism; and police response. 



          Logistic regression is used to determine predictors for race and gender of victim for both Canadian and American newscasts. The findings reveal that in both the American and Canadian newscasts, firearms are more likely to be reported in stories involving non-white victims. Moreover, the results show that less sympathy/outrage is presented in stories with non-white victims in both Canada and the United States. In American crime stories, the police are presented as more proactive in stories involving white victims, while lengthier stories and stories that appear in the later stages of criminal justice (i.e. court) depict more white victims. Conversely, motives are more likely to be reported in stories with non-white victims within Canadian newscasts. In terms of gender, the results indicate that Canadian crime stories that originate outside the local market (national) are more likely to involve female victims. In American newscasts, stories that appear in the earlier stages of criminal justice and stories that report a firearm are more likely to involve a male victim, while stories that present fear are more likely to include a female victim. 



          An examination of violent crime rates reveals large differences between Canada and United States. The expectation is that media coverage would reflect this disparity. However, a comparison of local newscasts reveals that crime content is very similar and the quantity is virtually identical. One can surmise that crime is an important element in both Canadian and American newscasts. In terms of victimization, there are some interesting findings that require further discussion. First, in both Canadian and American newscasts, race matters. In the United States white victims are more newsworthy, while in both countries non-white victims are negatively portrayed. Second, gender is an important indicator of newsworthiness in both Canadian and American newscasts. However, within American newscasts, fear is more likely to be presented in stories with female victims.


Images of Race and Victimization

In both American and Canadian newscasts there is clear evidence that non-white or minority victims are depicted and/or treated by the media in a more negative manner than white victims. This is particularly important to dispelling the belief that racism and discrimination is absent within Canadian society. In both countries, stories with outrage or sympathy are more likely to involve white victims. Within both countries there are a number of examples of stories in which minority victims are marginalized and disregarded. Needless to state, there are obvious dangers to the racial stereotyping of victims. In Canada, official data on the racial composition of victims and perpetrators is unavailable to the public because police agencies do not maintain records regarding race. However, the lack of official statistics on race or ethnicity of suspects and victims increases the mysteriousness of ethnic crime in Canada.  As a result, media misrepresentation of minority victims could negatively impact public perception about immigrants and minorities.

Moreover, within Canadian newscasts motives are more likely to be reported in stories with non-white victims. However, as mentioned previously, these motives are rife with stereotypical images that often places blame on the victim.  Although culpability is not always stated, many subtle clues are presented to give the impression that the victims are in some way responsible for the crime. This is especially evident in incidents that are described as “drive-bys”, “arguments”, “fights”, “gang-related”, “drug-related” and/or the result of community structure.  For instance, in some stories violence is explained as being a consequence of the location that it occurred and the motive focuses on inadequate morality within the community. Inner city violence is portrayed as derivative of the community structure, rather than a consequence of poverty, unemployment, inadequate health care, lack of opportunities, lack of education, or lack of gun control. These stories may strengthen racist or prejudicial notions about black or ethnic crime within poor or inner city communities.


Images of gender and victimization

In both Canadian and American newscasts, it appears that female victims are more newsworthy.  In Canadian newscasts, stories that originate outside the local market (national) are more likely to involve female victims. It is logical to assume that local news stations will follow local stories and report a higher percentage of local crime stories. However, local newscasts provide some nationally based stories and national crime stories with female victims are given higher priority. In American newscasts, stories that appear in the later stages are more likely to include female victims. Not all stories that are initially reported are followed through the system. The media is more selective in their choices for stories in the later stages and it appears that stories involving female victims receive more attention.

Although, both Canadian and American newscasts provide some evidence that female victims are more newsworthy, the results show that American newscasts present more fear when females are victimized.  This may be important in understanding why female are more likely to report higher levels of fear than males (Dowler, 2003). Feminists have long argued that women’s fear of crime is enhanced by media constructions of victimization (Madriz, 1997). The portrayal of victimization can instill frightening and terrifying images for many women. These images are often based in myths associated with violence against women. These myths hold that women are in constant danger, especially by strangers in the public sphere, despite the fact that the majority of women are victimized by intimate partners within the private sphere. Moreover, in both countries newsworthiness is contingent on stereotypical notions about female vulnerability, innocence and purity. The portrayal of female victimization is largely dependent on the victim’s role within the incident. Female victims engaged in “deviant” activity such as prostitution or drug activity, are not considered legitimate victims.

In conclusion, this study confirms that there are some minor differences in the presentation of race and gender within American and Canadian local newscasts. Essentially, the differences may be explained by the quantity of stories that are available for inclusion within the newscasts, resource availability and market competition. Simply put, some markets will have more crimes to select, have larger working budgets, and are in competition with other news stations for the audience. Essentially, the goal in both countries is to gain an audience and crime news is a strong attraction for many American and Canadian viewers. Nevertheless, it appears that the depiction of victims is dependent on race or ethnicity. In both Canada and United States, minority victims are devalued, misrepresented and marginalized. In both markets, crime stories are rife with stereotypes based on gender and race of the victim. It is imperative that consumers of the media critically evaluate the impact that these stereotypes have on the public imagination and our perceptions of victims.




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Disaster Victimization


John P. J. Dussich

CaliforniaState University, Fresno




The recent epic mega-disaster in South Asia on December 26th of last year represents one of the worst, if not the worst, single disaster in modern history. Eleven countries suffered deaths ranging from Indonesian with the highest number of deaths (approximately 300,000) to Kenya (with 10). Given the magnitude of the shock on those who survived and the environment that was affected, the after-effects will continue to cause further deaths and suffering for at least another year and likely many more beyond that.  Interventions in the aftermath must go beyond the essential needs of water, food, shelter and medical care. It needs to address the mental health conditions of the survivors. This "second wave" of the tsunami disaster is being largely ignored by the media, by governments and by the international community.





The recent epic mega-disaster in south Asia on December 26th of 2004 represents one of the worst, if not the worst, single disaster in modern history.  Eleven countries suffered deaths ranging from Indonesia with the highest number of deaths to Kenya with the least.  Given the magnitude of the shock on those who survived and the environment that was affected, the after-effects will continue to cause further deaths and suffering for at least another year and likely many more beyond that.  Intervention in the aftermath must go beyond the essential needs of water, food, shelter and medical care. It must also address the mental health conditions of the survivors.  This “second wave” of the tsunami disaster is being largely ignored by the international community, governments  and the media.  The "second wave" of a disaster is the suffering and death that occurs in the aftermath of that disaster.  These type victimizations include:

1.  Suffering and deaths that are the direct products of the initial physical injuries where victims do not recover.  These person's injuries are so severe that although they continued to live for a while, they cannot recover from their physical condition.

2. Suicides that result because the survivors cannot cope with the emotional trauma and take their own lives to escape the intolerable pain (physical and/or emotional). Some of these persons have such massive family losses (where they may be the sole survivor) that their grief is overwhelming and they take their own lives.  This includes those who feel "survivor-guilt” because they believe they should have died rather than the ones who actually did die. 

3.  Deaths due to extreme helplessness where the initial-impact survivors give up their struggle to live because they are overwhelmed with the conditions and do not have the resources to continue to thrive. These people stop eating, stop taking needed medications or neglect to protect themselves from normal every-day life-risks.

4.  Deaths due to extreme self-neglect where, because of a person's official (or unofficial) responsibilities, their sense of duty to continue to work exceeds their realistic personal limits, exacerbated by not eating and/or sleeping, causing them to die from physical exhaustion. This was noted in the 1997 Kobe, Japan earthquake among some police and firefighters as well as in the aftermath of the 2001 New York City 9/11 terrorist attack on Manhattan's twin-towers.

5.  Deaths due to accidental abandonment by care providers (usually family members) who themselves are killed in the initial impact and thus no one else is aware that these persons (usually very young children, the severely handicapped and the very old) exist and as a result they cannot live without aid and die.

As a result of the initial impact in the Kobe, Japan earthquake, approximately 5,000 persons were killed. One year later approximately 1,000 more persons died as a direct result of the initial-impact conditions mentioned above.  The nature (whether many or few injury-producing forces are set into motion) of the initial-impact victimization and the quality of the victim assistance response largely determines the extent of the "second wave" deaths.

The purpose of this presentation is to help the symposium participants understand how humans are affected by a disaster and learn how to help the survivors cope effectively with the extremely stressful conditions of the initial impact and then in the aftermath. The intent is to provide understanding of how victims are impacted and to suggest a range of interventions based on the individual needs of each victim/survivor so as to reduce suffering and facilitate their recovery as soon as possible. Recovery is herein defined as that state of mind and body that exists when a person is able to again function realistically and without serious symptoms of their trauma.  The main indicators of recovery are the absence of debilitating symptoms, a renewed sense of wellbeing, optimism in their future, ability to recount their traumatic experiences without significant emotional distress, and regaining the capacity to resume, what was for them prior to the disaster, a normal pattern of life. 



Basic responses by care providers appropriate

for all types of victimizations

A.  An initial assessment by a care provider (advocate, psychologist, psychiatrist, etc.) should always be made.  To help in this assessment at least five categories are suggested: victim's vulnerability; victim's behavior patterns; use of victim screening instruments; use of victim case finding method (Ehrenreich, 2001) and determination of extent of injury (physical, emotional and financial) similar to the contents of a Victim Impact Statement.

B.  Based on this assessment a triage should be made (using at least three of the following categories: maximally affected, minimally affected; and, in touch with reality - behaving in a functional manner).

C.  Care providers ideally should establish rapport prior to initiating an intervention (especially using the "mirroring" technique of Neuro-Linguistic Programming). This technique encourages the intervener to "become" as similar to the victim as possible but in a natural, yet immediate manner. This involves primarily matching verbal and body language so that a sense of trust or rapport is developed (Dussich, 1991).

D.  Provide basic information about what has happened, what will likely happen and what is expected of the victim. This is the easiest, cheapest, most wanted, most underused response in most victimizations.

E.  Listen actively (use reflection, paraphrase, open-ended questions; use eye-contact as appropriate for the culture; and, above all be empathetic) (Weaver, 1995).

F.  Encourage ventilation and validation of feelings (ventilation refers to the process of allowing the victims/survivors to “tell their story” (Young, 1994:6-2). Validation is a process through which the crisis interveners makes it clear that most reactions to the disaster are normal responses to abnormal situations; and, that their feelings are real for them – e.g. anger, fear, frustration, shame, grief, etc.).

G.  Identify fundamental existing resources (psychic, social, physical, time) critical for coping and unique to that victim (Dussich, 1988).  

H.  Provide emotional First Aid (offer all of the above, plus be a companion in the “journal back”, correct factual misperceptions, challenge errors in logic as appropriate to the person, remind and reconnect them to their own history of successful coping, reinforce their power to succeed, and give them techniques to reaffirm their own optimism) (Dussich, 1988).

I.  Remind victims of health issues (adequate sleep, enough vitamins, proper diet, stay away from caffeine, drugs, and alcohol, exercise regularly) (Weaver, 1995).

J.  Make referrals (create a referral directory based on local resources; personally validate it for quality, dependability and trust; then, use it).

K.  Insure that safety and basic physical needs are immediately met (food, shelter, clothing).

L.  Conduct Death Notifications with great care (give accurate information, have support persons present if possible, offer to help with funeral arrangements, offer condolences and respect for the deceased, leave contact information for future needs).




Central Principles for Helping Survivors Especially Helpful for Disaster Victims/Survivors

A.  First and foremost insure that all disaster survivors are provided with assurances and conditions of real safety, comfort and privacy (Young, 1994; Young, Ford, Ruzek, Friedman and Gusman, 1997; Ehrenreich, 2001).  In many types of disasters there is a continuing risk of further injury, especially with earthquakes and their after-shocks; hurricanes and their accompanying floods and tornadoes; water-caused landslides and the effects of continuous rain on already saturated earth; floods that are followed by dysentery, snakes and malaria, yellow-fever, and dengue; and, many disasters are followed by lawlessness with rampant theft and vandalism. 

B. Take stock of physical, social, economic, community conditions immediately after the disaster.  The resultant anomie, or sense of rootlessness and free-floating anxiety that occurs when there is a major disruption in the social status of a community and the norms become unclear. Facilitate the reestablishment of  social structure and leadership as appropriate.

C. Identify the unique needs of the different groups (children, adolescents, young adults, middle-aged adults, elder adults, witnesses, emergency responders, medical providers, administrators, military personnel, etc.).

D.  Connect victims to their social-psychological resources, especially loved ones (Young, et al. 1997). This includes providing telephone connections, transportation, email resources and postal services.

E.  Develop a personal future plan for each victim that helps them focus beyond the current conditions and on long-term realistic objectives.

F.  Attend to losses (property and people), bereavement and grieving in a sensitive manner (Young, et al., 1997).

G.  For those left alone (orphans, isolated parents, etc.) locate temporary foster links for all age victims.

H.  Reinforce the “normalcy” of their reactions in an abnormal environment (Nelson, 1978; Ehrenreich, 2001). 

I.   Organize and maintain like-person support groups with specific missions, similar interests and trustworthy leaders.

J.  Establish a “buddy-system” for all persons and require regular “check-ins” so that everyone is monitored during the immediate aftermath.

K.  Be sensitive to cultural, ethnic, racial, socioeconomic and cultural diversity (Weaver, 1995; Ehrenreich, 2001).

L.  Set-up a “rumor-control center” to help manage erroneous information and publicize its location and ways to access this information. Proactively respond to existing rumors with factual information as soon as possible.

M.  Be mindful of “compassion fatigue” or burnout among care-providers, and take positive steps to prevent and resolve it (Ignacio and Perlas, 1994; Figley, 1995).  Insure that supervisors realize the importance of regular debriefings, mandatory time-outs for those working directly with victims, especially after stressful encounters with heavily traumatized victims.

N.  Interface with other related victim service agencies operating in the same area (Ehrenreich, 2001).  Establish a coordinating council to share resources to refer victims as appropriate, and to assess the flow of information and referrals .


Ending the contact with victims

A.  After the victim is relatively stable and has made full use of your organization’s resources, prior to departing the affected area, make final referrals to competent providers (both formal and informal) so as to insure a likely path to recovery.

B.  Complete documentation (case-notes, referral notes, statistical summaries, and narratives) and make a final report and place it in a confidential file.

C.  Establish outreach services for those who are not able or decide not come for help, especially those in rural areas, those from minority groups, and the handicapped.  These services must be tailored to the ethnic or cultural character of the target group.

D.  Schedule specific follow-up dates and keep them. Add this information to the final report. 



The issues of disaster victimization were brought to a dramatic awareness like never before when the Indian Ocean Tsunami struck on December 26, 2004 killing roughly 350,000 people.  In terms of responding adequately, not only were the impacted countries rendered helpless, but so was the international community of organizations that tried to send assistance. Preparedness for an event of this magnitude could not have been anticipated. In my judgment this disaster will go down in history as the most lethal to date. However, in the wake of this catastrophe many countries, not just those on the Indian Ocean, have begun: the process of taking stock of their disaster response capabilities; and, planning to create national organizations so as to be able to manage the aftermath of future major disasters using a wide range of resources available in their respective countries. In those instances where resources are not readily available, outside consultants are being brought in.  The challenge is to accept the reality of future disasters and their victims and move to create programs and organizations that can respond in a timely and effective way.




Dussich, John P. J. (1988).  “Social Coping:  A Theoretical Model for Understanding Victimization and Recovery,” in Zvonimir Paul Šeparović, editor, Victimology: International Action and Study of Victims, Zagreb, Croatia: Somobar.

Dussich, John P. J. (1991).  “Helping Victims Recover with Neuro-Linguistic Programming.”  Presented at the 7th International Symposium on victimology, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August.

            Ehrenreich, John H. (2001). Coping With Disasters: A Guidebook to Psychosocial Intervention, (Revised Edition).  Center for Psychology and society, State University of New York, Westbury, October.

            Figley, Charles R. (1995). Compassion Fatigue: Secondary Traumatic Stress Disorders from Treating the Traumatized. (Ed) New York: Brunner/Mazel.

            Ignacio, Laurdes Ladrido and Antonio P. Perlas (1994) From Victims to Survivors: Psychosocial Interventiona in Disaster Management.  Quezon City, Philippines: SBA Printers, Inc.

            Nelson, Mary Elizabeth (1978). Training Manual for Mental Health and Human Service Workers in Major Disasters. Center for Mental Health Services, U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Washington, D. C.

Weaver, John D.  (1995). Disasters: Mental Health Interventions. Sarasota, Florida: Professional Resource Press.

            Young, Marlene A. (1994)  Responding to Communities in Crisis: The Training Manual of the NOVA Crisis Response Team, Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company.

            Young, Bruce H., Julian Ford, Josef I. Ruzek, Matthew J. Friedman, and Fred D. Gusman. (1997)  Disaster Mental Health Services: A Guidebook for Clinicians and Administrators Emergency, Early Post-Impact, and Restoration Services for Survivors, Helpers, and Organizations.  Palo Alto, California: Veteran Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System.


Fear of American Crime by Japanese Female Tourists


John P. J. Dussich

CaliforniaState University, Fresno



Statement of the Problem

The subject of tourist victims is a relatively new area of concern.  Across the United States there are only a few dedicated programs that focus primarily on foreign tourists. Those that do exist are located in high tourist areas.  OVC funded a special project to explain the key elements of tourist victim programs so as to identify those projects that offer promise and that have collected valuable data over the recent years. 

     The fear of becoming a victim in America by Japanese female tourists is in large part influenced by cultural conditioning, by their government’s warnings, by the image of America portrayed in their media, by individual experiences attempting to cope with the possibility of being victimized, and by the presence of males in the USA willing to perpetrate a range of serious crimes.  


Methodological Overview

Research was conducted by a questionnaire survey of a sample of 107 Japanese women residing in America, residing in Japan, traveling to America, and traveling to Japan.  Questions were asked about their image of the crime risk in America, their probable response to crime, and the measures they would use to thwart an eventual criminal attack. 



Young Japanese women when contemplating travel to the USA are most fearful of drug abusers, murderers, robbers and rapists. Their expected reaction to robbery and kidnapping is to mostly “obey” the offenders’ demands.  The self protection measures considered to be most important for female Japanese tourists expecting to survive travel in the USA are: knowledge about the area, being aware of safety, having a passport, having enough money and having insurance.


Practical Application

These findings are not confirmed effective strategies, they are only perceptions. It is critical to measure whether any of these strategies have a direct bearing on actually thwarting these crimes. So as to minimize the potential for victimization, only proven methods should be disseminated to Japanese women (and other foreigners) who plan to visit the USA.  These findings could also provide important cultural information for victim service providers who assist Japanese (and other foreign) women who are victimized in the USA.


Case Study


A Japanese woman was raped by a hotel staff person at a Las Vegas hotel.


*      General Situation  This is a case of a Japanese woman who came to Las Vegas, Nevada alone from Japan for some sightseeing and was raped in her hotel room by a member of the hotel staff.  In addition to being raped, the offender stole her expensive Omega watch.  Three situations give the appearance that this sexual encounter might not have been rape but rather consensual sex.  1. During the rape and prior to penetration the victim asked the offender to please use a condom which she provided.  As a result of this precaution, there could be a suspicion of consensual sex. 2. After the offender made known his intentions, she said “no” a number of times. He did not cease his attack; consequently her response to his aggression was fear and she did not struggle. Her fear driven compliance gave an appearance of consensual sex.   3. Finally, the victim was video taped the next morning after the rape as part of an interview by the hotel security personnel using a Japanese interpreter; and, her demeanor appeared to be strangely calm and focused mostly on the theft of the stolen watch rather than being upset and focused on the rape.


*      Victim Profile  This victim is a divorcee who is sexually active, has a boyfriend in Japan, is employed, is intelligent and has a college degree. She has been to the USA before, knows it is a dangerous country, has been warned by her government to take precautions with her safety and bought condoms probably to prevent contracting HIV/AIDS in the event of a willing sexual encounter.  While her behaviors seemed to suggest consensual sex, her resulting trauma, as evidenced by her verified post traumatic stress syndrome, indicated she was raped against her will under conditions of extreme fear. 


*      Offender Profile  The offender is a single male from Rumania who lied about being in the hotel during the rape. The hotel video cameras showed him returning to the hotel after he carded out of the hotel when his shift time was over and then again it showed him departing the hotel after the rape occur. This offender was an employee of the hotel at the time of the rape and was dressed in a cowboy outfit.  He used his status as an “on-duty” staff person to gain the victim’s confidence and entered her room under the ruse of wanting to help her get tourist information for her next hotel reservation in another city.  Since the victim did not file a formal criminal report with the police, the offender was not arrested. He has since left his employment at the hotel and is not available.




Responding to the Fear of Rape in a Hotel Room

in a Foreign Country


Key points from this case:

·       Anticipating travel to the USA (responding to the negative image of American as a dangerous country).

·       Confusion with an unknown language, and an alien culture.

·       Struggling with being impolite or polite in a conflict situation (difficulty in saying no due to strong cultural norms)

·       Responses to the fear of being raped based on learned prevention strategies.

·       Conditions similar to being kidnapped (no escape with a high injury risk).


From this case study came the idea to conduct a research project to explore some of these issues.



Japanese Government Advice:

“If you are a victim of a crime,don’t resist.

Offenders who commit a crime as a group

usually have weapons.”




·       Show an attitude of not resisting their demands.

·       Think about your life and personal safety as the first priority.

·       Memorize details about the situation for reporting to the police.



Research Methods


  • 107 adult Japanese women
  • Age: Teens- 4.7%, 20s- 55.1%, 30s- 22.4%, 40s- 12.1%, 50s +- 5.6%
  • Partner: yes- 60.7%, no- 39.3%



Questionnaire was distributed at four different places:

1) California State University in CA

2) Tokiwa University in Japan

3) Prior to, during and after flights from the USA bound for Japan

4) Prior to, during and after flights from Japan bound for the USA


Finding  #1
Which crime do you associate with the image of the USA? (select the top 3). This is the result of subjective judgments by young Japanese women.



Finding #1 Key Points

   Out of 11 crimes -

  1. The four most mentioned crimes were: drug abuse, murder, robbery and rape.
  2. The four least mentioned were: arson, fraud, car theft,  and kidnapping
















Finding #2:

How do you think you would react if involved in these crimes? (if under

offender’s control)


Finding #2 Key Points

Out of the five crimes considered, Japanese women indicated:

  1. for the crime of kidnapping withmaximum control with low injury threat & no flight option, the action of choice was “obey
  2. for crimes of assault and rape major control with high injury threat & with the flight option, the action of choice was “run away
  3. for the property crime of robbery with minimum control with  high injury threat & no flight option, the action of choice was “obey”   
  4. For the property crime of theft with minimum control with no injury threat & maximum flight option, the action of choice was “resist


Finding #3
What measures can be used to protect you? (visiting the USA or living in Japan.


Finding #3 Key Points

When visiting the USA use these measures for self protection – in rank order:

  1. Knowledge about the area
  2. Safety awareness
  3. Passport
  4. Insurance
  5. Enough money
  6. Cell phone
  7. Car
  8. Self defense
  9. Water
  10. Medicine
  11. Condoms
  12. Camera
  13. Weapon
  14. Whistle


When living in Japan, use these measures for self protection - in rank order:

  1. Cell phone
  2. Safety awareness
  3. Enough money
  4. Knowledge about area
  5. Insurance
  6. Self defense
  7. Water
  8. Car
  9. Passport
  10. Medicine
  11. Condoms
  12. Whistle
  13. Camera
  14. Weapon


Considering the top five measures selected, the common issues when in both the USA and Japan were:

  1. Knowledge about the area
  2. Safety awareness
  3. Enough money
  4. Insurance


Practical Implications

These findings, could have a direct bearing on the quality and quantity of information disseminated to Japanese women (and other foreigners) who plan to visit the USA and would like to minimize their potential for being victimized.  Because some safety awareness information is of doubtful value, it would be important to insure that it is factual and empirically linked to effective outcomes.  These measures could also provide important cultural information for victim service providers who would assist Japanese (and other foreign) women victimized in the USA.

For preparing potential tourists for visits in the USA this study suggests that persons planning to travel to the USA do consider the crime risks and make an attempt to prepare themselves accordingly.  Thus, accurate advice could and should be disseminated with visas to the US embassies and consulates around the world.

As a resource for tourist victim service providers (especially those from Asia) it is important, especially in high tourist areas, to create multi-language and multi-culture information for persons who become victims. So as to be able to immediately provide tourist victims with practical and effective measures to relieve their confusion, assure them of where to get specific assistance and help them with on-call translators with links to victim service programs.

For understanding female Japanese tourist behavior in the USA it is instructive to recognize that what most of these tourists believe are reasonable measures may in fact not have a direct bearing on their vulnerability.  Research is needed to identify the most relevant measures for this unique group of tourists.

For understanding interactions of female Japanese tourist victims and their American offenders it would be valuable to understand the behavioral patterns of these two very different types of persons. Then, to fashion easy to use strategies for these tourists that can be realistically used when confronted with an American offender.

To provide factual information in legal proceedings which result from these types of victimization.  In some instances Japanese female tourists become victim-witnesses and consequently need to be understood from the perspective of their own culture rather than as if they were Americans.  As in the case study mentioned earlier, a victim’s behavior can be misunderstood and thus be used in favor of the defendant and against the victim.  With this type of information victims from abroad could have a reasonable chance of being respected and understood thereby providing them with a better chance to obtain legal recourse, through civil proceedings, victim compensation and restitution. 


The Sacred Space...The Nexus Where

Faith and Victimization Meet:

The Role of Faith in Victim Recovery


Susan Garfield Edwards

Hope for Healing Ministries, Inc. and the Victim Memorial Center


           In Till We Have Faces, C.S. Lewis asked: “Why must holy places be dark places?”  Certainly there are few places darker for the mind, body and spirit than in the midst of victimization.  Perhaps it is within these places that faith can find its stride – in the lives of those who are people of faith and, I might argue, for those who are not.  Perhaps it is here where “the holy” can intersect the horrible, where faith and recovery can meet, where faith can be a part of the healing and hope for victims of violence and crime.  Someone once truthfully said (anonymous to me), “Grace puddles up in wounds.” 

          A theological forum was hosted in 1997 by Neighbors Who Care, the victim ministry arm of Prison Fellowship Ministries.  God and the Victim, Theological Reflections on Evil, Victimization, Justice and Forgivenesswas the subsequent book which compiled papers presented at the forum.  It was their contention that crime was a theological issue (“at its root and in its effects”1) and the Bible provided not only historical examples of victimization that are similar to those today, but also provided practical applications for the faith community to address in ministry to those victimized. 

Lisa Barnes Lampman and Michelle Shattuck expand the Christian Biblical statement that man is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and suggest, in “Finding God in the Wake of Crime,” their chapter in God and the Victim,  that “...we are, fundamentally, spiritual beings...God has created us with a body, mind, soul, and spirit.  In order for victims to experience healing and restoration, their spiritual needs must be acknowledged and addressed.  This is just as important as bandaging a wound, repairing a kicked-in front door, or replacing stolen goods.”2 

So, I would argue that within each person is a “sacred space” – a place of personal faith.  Personal faith can be shaped by many factors, including religious training, education, culture, geography and heritage, family backgrounds and practice, previous wounding and restoration, and immersion into denominationalism.  But in each is that space where faith intersects life and processes events (traumatic and otherwise), both immediately and continually for the future.  So with the victim of violent crime, that faith connects with the violence, sorts through events, defines reactions, and produces responses – all which ultimately impact the individual’s healing journey.

If pop culture is right, we are living in a time of heightened spirituality, if not practice.  Bob Dylan might say “you say you lost your faith, but that’s not where it’s at have no faith to lose and you know it.”3  But in one Barna Group survey done by the Barna Group, over 96% of people questioned acknowledged a belief in God;  in another, over 70% felt they were spiritual beings.4 An internet Google search reveals hundreds of thousands of books, resources and other articles on faith and spirituality – from scholarly works to popular magazines such as Newsweek and Time. Articles cover such topics as faith and healing; the physical, emotional and spiritual healing aspects of prayer, and overt demonstrations of faith which transform communities.  People today are seeking a spirituality and a faith base which can provide comfort and answers in life’s most confusing and frightening moments.  When this is not found, we cry out in terror, “Where is/was God/god?”  And we return to fundamental places of hope for answers.  We flock to churches and places of worship following events like September 11, 2001 ...we question what we know of God/god.  And we want more.

Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Seminary in California, said in a

web article for BeliefNet entitled “A God-Sized Hunger ”  that he likes the  observation made by Blaise Pascal in the 1600s that there exists "a God-sized vacuum" inside us, a spiritual hunger that can only be satisfied by a relationship with our Creator.”5

Pascal is also credited with saying, “Belief is a wise wager. Granted

that faith  cannot be proved, what harm will come to you if you gamble on its truth and it proves false?”

          The Christian scriptures say, in Hebrews 11:1, that“The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It's our handle on what we can't see.”

So, if we acknowledge a faith base, then how does that faith (whatever that faith) intersect in times of trauma and wounding?I’d suggest it intersects on a personal level as well as a communal one. 

Victimologists say that there are at least four levels of wounding or injury in times of victimization (physical, emotional, social/financial, and spiritual).6  Violence is done to us by strangers, sometimes an acquaintance, far too often a family member or spouse.  Victims are rarely injured in only one way; each type of injury precipitates additional injury (here is not the place to discuss the layers of further victimization by the justice system, etc).    

For instance, physical injury results in costly medical treatment (financial); stealing of possessions results in replacement costs as well as emotional losses (vulnerability, loss of control);  domestic abuse challenges the sanctity of the home as shelter and shatters marriages (social/financial);  child sexual abuse forever destroys the physical, emotional and mental innocence of the one violated;  and as Marie Fortune describes in horrifying detail, abuse by a clergy member shatters the one victimized as well as the peace within the congregation.7  

Howard Zehr, the co-director of the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding and Professor of Restorative Justice at Eastern Mennonite University, and the one credited with founding the modern restorative justice movement in the United States, says in Transcending, Reflections of Crime Victims, “The crisis of victimization is comprehensive. I often visualize it as three overlapping circles: a crisis of self image (who am I really?) a crisis of meaning (what do I believe?), and a crisis of relationship (who can I trust?).  The crisis of victimization is also fundamental, because it undermines underlying assumptions or pillars upon which we build our sense of safety, wholeness and identity.”8

Thus, you have the physical injury and its ramifications (for the one whose body is scarred from an assault, she asks if she is still pretty? Am I still someone another might want?); you have the emotional injury and its results (once hit by a drunk driver, can I trust the person driving the car next to me?); and you have the challenge of life assumptions (what do I REALLY believe about social justice, about life being fair, about good and evil in this world?). 

But all of these wrap up, Zehr suggests, in another kind of crisis, that being a religious crisis.  From the victims interviewed for Transcending, Zehr says “as is apparent from so many of the voices in this book, victims often undergo a religious crisis as they try to reassess their assumptions about a God who could allow or even cause this to happen.”9  Thus, you have the individual spiritual crisis that questions who God is, and what is believed about God, what good and evil mean, how justice can be obtained, and, if it is possible, how to reach a point of forgiveness and restoration.  And you have the spiritual crisis...the destruction of peace...Biblical Shalom...that shatters the life of the community.  Can even the community ever again see justice being lived out?

From hours spent listening to those who have been victimized by the violent actions of others, I’ve come to realize that both what they believe...about themselves, their world, those around them, their historical faith and their future... intersects each part of their response.  Within them ... each, and all... is that sacred space of belief, or faith, which processes how they proceed in any given moment, for any event.  It processes their response.    It is as intrinsically embedded in their being as anything external or physical.  And then from this sacred space, this place of faith, comes a framework from which I believe they can heal (if wounded) and help others heal. 

What then is faith?  Objectively, faith is a creed, doctrine or belief system which helps to translate what we observe; it lends itself to understanding.  It is a tenet or dogma which frames our response; it motivates.  Faith ... personal, individual, waiting to be tested ... permeates all we are and do.  We act on our deepest beliefs.  Doctrine, practice and the liturgy of denominations lend specific definition – a Muslim believer, a follower of Jesus Christ and an Orthodox Jew may all act from their faith base, but will act differently based on their specific doctrine and religious practices.  Each will view victimization from their own religious concepts of the presence and participation of God/god in an individual’s life. And each will do their own work (either as a victim or with victims) from that perspective.  The one wounded needs to find a place of balance, where they are comfortable exploring these questions. Likely their pain and grief (for what was and will never be again) will drive them to such a religious practitioner who is also comfortable exploring these issues with them, who will let them rage and weep and mourn.  Who will allow them to question God.  (After all, Jesus did.)

Some form of prayer is a worship practice in most world religions. Remarkable studies within medical circles are now showing a correlation between prayer and physical healing.  This prayer could be intercessory prayer (when others are praying for the one needing healing), or meditative prayer (when the one seeks within him/herself that place of healing).  And, yes, there must be acknowledgement that science can not always measure what is not objective or scientific. How do you measure the power of prayer? What is the yardstick of faith?  Is it in external results...or in the mind/life of the one who believes?  That answer is, yes.

Still, patients more and more are asking their physicians to evoke prayer in their behalf as a supplemental modality to conventional medical treatment. Newsweek International On-Line Edition November 12, 2003, said a recent poll showed 72% of Americans would welcome a conversation with their doctor about faith.  Why, if not seeking something only faith could provide?  To the Christian believer, that is what is referred to “as the peace that passes understanding.”

Studies by Dr. Herbert Benson, a Harvard Medical School professor and researcher in the area of “relaxation response,”  show that types of prayer and meditation can significantly lower high risk physiological responses (heart rate, blood pressure, uneven breathing) .  

At a 1998 conference on Spirituality and Healing in Medicine, Benson told a group of physicians, nurses, psychiatrists, and chaplains that “we have discovered that what is going on inside us, deep in our hearts, matters in our physiology.”10  

Being asked these questions of faith, physicians, untrained and skeptical, began to ask for appropriate training in their medical schools – and as of 1999, at least half of medical schools across the US were offering courses in spirituality and medicine.11

In an interview with Contact, Dr. David Larson, president of the National Institute for Healthcare Research in Rockville, Maryland, reported that the World Health Organization includes one’s spirituality/religion/personal beliefs as one of six indicators of quality of life.  Christoph Benn, guest editor of Contact for this issue says, “Larson and his colleagues cannot prove or disprove the power of prayer although scientific studies have been done on the effects of intercessory prayer.  Now they can prove that a combination of various factors relating to religious practice has a beneficial effect on the health of people.  Worship and prayer, mutual caring in times of illness, belonging to a community, having a strong sense of identity and meaning in life all contribute to this effect.” 12

Further, in “The Importance of Prayer for Mind/Body Healing,” Madeline M. Maier-Lorentz, MSC, RN says too that studies show prayer has an important role in healing.13

What does this mean for the victim of violence and crime?  If spirituality and faith intersect medicine to assist in physical healing; if they bring meaning, a sense of belonging, comfort, purpose, and hope to a medical patient; then surely there is a parallel for emotional injuries and trauma as well.

In an article which highlights his work with indigenous peoples of the world, particularly the Inupiat peoples of Alaska and their healing processes (“The Wisdom of Ancient Healers”), Richard Katz says  “another aspect of that healing itself is not based on rational, acquired knowledge but on shared, spiritual energy.”14 

He goes on to say,  “Healing is a process, a movement;  it is transition toward balance, connectedness, meaning and wholeness.  When we see healing as movement rather than outcome, we discover a beautiful truth: healing is not a once and for all process...If we create healing communities --- people who get together, work with each other, and warmly support each other – healing becomes a part of everyday life.” 15

Is that not what faith ... and the larger faith community ... can provide?  A healing community?  Need we be reminded of the Christian scripture which says, “If one member suffers, then all suffer together.”  (1 Corinthians 12:26)?

David and Anne Delaplane suggest that the faith community has a role, yea a responsibility, in this process. They partnered  with the Office of Victims of Crime in 1994 to write a resource manual for clergy and faith communities, called “The Spiritual Dimension of Victim Services.” Specific details about the need for spiritually sensitive response to victims of crime were included for all manner and type of victimization.   Especially helpful are the suggestions by the Rev. Dr. Richard Lord on “What Victims Want to Say to Clergy.” Unless the faith community responds with appropriate ministry and honors the traditions and cultural beliefs of specific religions, the damage is compounded and the victim can leave doubly victimized.

But when done right, the effects are incredibly healing and restorative.  Robert Wuthnow (Saving America? Faith-based Services and the Future of Civil Society), 2004, suggests:   “Religion has too often been viewed by its defenders as an unrivaled source of personal meaning and purpose for its adherents and too often regarded by its critics as an impossibly naïve yearning for a lost belief system that can never again be fully believable.  Religion is of course about meaning and belief.  But it is not only about that. Religion is fundamentally social, about the relationships among people and within communities and between individuals and organizations, and it is therefore contextual.  Its meanings are contextual, given life and given reality through the concrete settings in which it is expressed.”16

We do well to remember that President Ronald Reagan’s 1982 Task Force on Victims of Crime report concluded:  “The lasting scars of spirit and faith are not so easily treated. Many victims question the faith they thought secure or have no faith on which to rely.  Frequently, ministers and their congregations can be a source of solace that no other sector of society can provide.”17  Faith-based services for the victim, then, include helping them heal by drawing them into (or more deeply into) a sense of community, providing spiritual insight and direction, embracing them into something larger than themselves through prayer, advocacy,  and companioning.  Walking with them through the stages of recovery and restoration.

Scott Beard of the Maryland Crime Victims’ Resource Center, Inc., wrote in Collaborations newsletter, regarding a faith-based initiative funded by the Office of Victims of Crime,   that as we seek “to meet the needs of crime victims who are facing a spiritual crisis in the aftermath of criminal victimization,” we need to be careful that “whatever our spiritual or cultural background, freedom to worship God as we choose would include two components: a healing of the  spirit to help recover from victimization and a safe place to seek spiritual guidance without blame.” 18

Ultimately, though, the intersection of faith and victim recovery rests within the individual.  I believe the role of faith before, during and following victimization plays a major role in how it helps a victim to heal.  Much like taking a medical history, someone qualified to wade into spiritual issues needs to ask of the victim: is there a faith base here you want to work with? 

I’ve found seeking answers to these questions as I listen to victims helps me put into perspective their individual faith base.  These questions may not be purposefully asked, but the answers surface in our conversation.

First, what was the role of faith in the victim’s life prior to the violation?  Who or what was God/god to them? Was there a spiritual relationship and what was it like?  On what was it built?  Had it been tested...and found strong...or wanting?  If there is no faith, no spiritual foundation, has the victim ever considered one?  If faith was strong, tested and found to be affirming and healing in years’ past, then the victim will likely again seek strength and help from that belief.

          Then, what was the role of faith during the incident?  Who/what hurt you?  Who is that [person] to you?  What part(s) does it/she/he play in the life of a victim?  And, what part of the victim has been hurt?  How deep was the wound?  How vital is the part that was victimized?  Did you as the victim cry out to “your God/god?” Why or why not? Did “your god/your God” answer?  Did you receive comfort or only hear silence during that cry?   

          Last, what is the role of faith following the incident?  The stealing of a wallet complicates life but it seldom affects the victim in the same way as a rape or armed robbery may. But if it follows a series of other violations, then the wounds are compounded and the injury is greater and more difficult to heal.  Perhaps strong and resilient until the latest event, the victim now has to decide if faith is enough. Does any of this have meaning...if so, what does it mean?

So, you too wonder -- has their faith been tested and affirmed (found to be secure)?  Has it been challenged and challenged again (found to be weak in some areas, but strengthened in some)?  Has it been destroyed (it was too weak to withstand the onslaught)?  Is it non-existent (with nothing to rely on in the first place and no reason to believe in it now)? Or is it the catalyst to send a victim on a search for spiritual meaning?  

Lampman says “for some victims, crime touches a spiritual chord that has long been silent or has never been played.  The crisis compels them to ask questions of faith and sends them on a spiritual search.”19

          Zehr’s Transcending, Reflections of Crime Victims, is a compelling collection of life stories, by those whose lives have been suddenly and completely changed by the violent act of another.  Yet, page after page, we are privy to the voices of victims saying something about their faith...and how it infused their journeys toward recovery.  For them, issues of survival and forgiveness and trust and justice all mingle together into making them what they are today (individuals, survivors, and often victors on the other side of victimization). 

          And as quoted in Fellowship (Fellowship of Reconciliation) Magazine,  Father Michael Lapsley, SSM, severely wounded in a letter bomb blast in South Africa in 1990, says: ““my story was acknowledged, reverenced and recognized, and it was given a moral content.  God enabled me to make my bombing redemptive – to bring the life out of the death, the good out of the evil....”20

As the search begins for answers....why? who? what? ... the church must stand ready to assist in the struggle.  For the Christian, Lampman says that answers may come when we understand what the Gospel message is, what it says about the life and death of Christ, what God is about in today’s world and what it means to us. 21   Dan Allender says in The Cry of the Soul:  “I cannot weep without sensing that each tear is caught in the crevice of His wounds.” 22    What a beautiful picture.  In The Healing Path, Allender further says:  “Healing in this life is not the resolution of our past, it is the use of our draw us into a deeper relationship with God.”23 

Within these parameters the faith community can begin to do its work...what it does best ... and that is to be the living presence of God/god.  We find Isaiah 63:9 says that we become “the angel of His presence.”  Luke 10 admonishes us to become as a good go and do likewise in care for our neighbors.

But care must be taken to avoid the imposition of faith and values on the victimized and vulnerable one.  Each must come to place of faith by and for himself/herself.  That ought not hinder the faith community from responding, however.  And in partnership with secular and governmental services for the victim, the faith component can be especially powerful.  In Restorative Justice, all stakeholders in the process of victim advocacy have a role in healing – and that includes the church.

The intersection of faith and victim recovery then causes us to look at many issues.  On an individual basis, what do victims want and need from faith and the faith community? How do you broach the subject of faith (and healing) with a victim from outside your faith community?  And on a larger scale, when you consider all the stakeholders in restoring justice to a community shattered by violence and crime, how can religious and secular services best partner to provide cross-training and optimal services to crime victims?  Why is it so difficult for a faith community to minister to victims beyond the immediate event?

The question of whether the faith community ought to minister to victims of crime is, for me, simply answered.  Yes.  Issues of good and evil are issues of faith, of morality.  They are at the heart of victimization and at the heart of our struggles with faith.  More difficult, though, is a discussion on the ways they can minister.

The Office for Victims of Crime,New Directions from the Field: Victims’ Rights and Services for the 21st Century (Faith Community, #12 of 19 sections) includes a listing of numerous faith-based victim assistance programs across the country.  Each village, town or city that has a faith community has the potential for this kind of response.  Advocacy, support groups, companioning, grief work and other pieces to victims’ ministry are all long-term involvements that find their best practice within a faith community.  Several chapters in God and the Victim include excellent discussions about specific ministry of the faith community to victims.

Proverbs 21:31 says that “the horse is made ready for the battle, but the victory rests with the Lord.”  Perhaps stretching an image here, in victim recovery, the horse (all the secular and governmental organizations providing advocacy and justice within the criminal justice system) has been made ready;  the victory in victim recovery must come from faith.  Ultimately it comes from God/god.  The intersection of faith and healing for victims of violence and crime is a area of study and practice that must continue. 


Reconciling Injustices


Duane Ruth-Heffelbower

Center for Peacemaking and Conflict Studies

FresnoPacific University




Victims who refuse the offer of victim-offender mediation seldom give their reasons. This study surveyed mediators in Fresno, California who had experienced refusals to determine the reasons for them. Ethnicity and other factors are explored.



Meeting the Needs of Victims

The criminal justice system does a notoriously poor job of meeting the needs of victims. Among the many needs of victims is to have someone take responsibility for their harm. There is also a need for answers to questions like “why me?” or “are they coming back?” Only the offender can meet these needs, but the offender is prevented by the adversary criminal justice system from doing so.

These and other needs of victims can be met through victim-offender dialogue. Structuring this dialogue is not difficult, but requires a firm theoretical base. The Peacemaking Model (Figure 1) developed by Ron Claassen has proven to be a trustworthy base for these dialogues. The model was created in Fresno, California as part of developing one of the earliest victim offender reconciliation programs beginning in 1982. An extensive description of the model by Ron Claassen is available on the Center for Peacemaking and Conflict Studies web site The model builds on work done on forgiveness by David Augsburger. The version offered here is one adapted by the author for use in cross-cultural settings.

Figure 1 “A Peacemaking Model”


Victim-offender dialogue process using the Peacemaking Model begins by the parties individually entering the circle, which is the commitment to be constructive. No dialogue should take place without the mediator being satisfied that both parties have this commitment. It is an individual decision, something a person decides for him or herself without reference to the other party. The term “one way” refers to the individual nature of the commitment. It is normal for both parties to agree to this commitment while believing that the other party is incapable of doing so. The term “unconditional positive regard” could also describe this commitment, and may work better for some.

Three steps are necessary after the parties have come together with a commitment to be constructive. They need to recognize injustices, restore equity, and be clear about the future. The word “forgiveness” might also be “reconciliation.” Neither of these usually happens during the dialogue itself, although a start is made and many meetings end on a very conciliatory note. It is as the agreements made are kept that trust grows and forgiveness can begin.

The victim-offender dialogue is structured simply, following the model. The mediator begins with a monologue reminding the parties of their commitment to be constructive and the ground rules for the meeting. Then the offender tells what he or she did, with the mediator guiding the victim in paraphrasing what the offender is saying as the story unfolds. Both facts and feelings are important parts of the story. The victim can ask questions if everything wasn’t covered in the story.

When the offender has finished, the victim describes how he or she experienced the event, with the offender paraphrasing. This continues until everyone is satisfied that the full story has been told, and is understood by both parties. This process goes quickly in most cases. Only where the parties have a long history does it get lengthy.

When the story telling is done, the parties decide what is needed to make things as right as possible between them. The offense cannot be undone, but when offenders do what they can to make things right, victims are usually able to add enough grace to the equation to balance the account. What it takes to make things right is limited only by the parties’ creativity. Where the offender has few resources, more creativity is required.

Once agreements are made on how to make things as right as possible, the parties need to clarify their future intentions toward each other. This usually takes the form of the offender promising not to do such a thing again. Follow-up to ensure that agreements are kept is a key ingredient in a successful dialogue, since it is as those agreements are kept that trust grows and reconciliation happens.


Evaluation of the Process

Victim Offender Reconciliation Program of the Central Valley, Inc. has been in operation since 1982, handling over 7,200 cases in that time. At the conclusion of each case an evaluation form is sent to both victim and offender. For the ten-year period 1994-2003 VORP had 3989 case referrals. A “case” consists of one victim-offender match. Where one person victimizes several people there would be several cases, as is often the case with vandalism. Of the cases referred to VORP, about 50% result in a victim-offender dialogue. The other half of the cases are either withdrawn by the criminal justice system for any of several reasons, typically a new arrest, or either the victim or offender decline to participate. A greater proportion of the refusals are from victims, which is not surprising due to probation officers or courts pre-screening offenders and telling them about the program before the case is sent to VORP.

          VORP of the Central Valley usually receives cases involving smaller property crimes or simple assaults committed by juveniles. The amount of restitution involved is usually in the low hundreds of dollars, but has been as high as $50,000. While VORP has handled vehicular homicide cases and others involving significant bodily injury, those cases are unusual. The same process is used in the more serious cases, and also in cases where there is an adult offender, with lengthier preparation. Victim-offender dialogue programs handling cases of severe violence report preparation times of over a year.

          The following charts describe the responses on the evaluation forms received for the ten-year period 1994-2003 by VORP of the Central Valley. This period saw 3,989 case referrals, which would mean that roughly 2,000 victim-offender dialogues took place. 292 victims and 167 offenders returned their evaluation forms. The forms are not anonymous, having the case name and number on them. VORP has never followed up with parties who do not return their forms, a policy which was changed in June 2004 in response to comments made by participants in the American Society of Victimology symposium in Topeka, Kansas where these results were presented.


Offender Mediation Evaluations 1994-2003
VORP of the Central Valley, Inc































Offender Mediation Evaluations 1994-2003

VORP of the Central Valley, Inc


toward reconciliation

away from reconciliation

stayed the same










Victim Mediation Evaluations 1994-2003
VORP of the Central Valley, Inc







































Victim Mediation Evaluations 1994-2003
VORP of the Central Valley, Inc


Victim Mediation Evaluations 1994-2003
VORP of the Central Valley, Inc


Victim Mediation Evaluations 1994-2003
VORP of the Central Valley, Inc


Victim Mediation Evaluations 1994-2003
VORP of the Central Valley, Inc

For more information on the process used and for other statistics on victim-offender dialogue please see:


Victim Offender Mediation Refusals

A Study of Mediator Perceptions


Duane Ruth-Heffelbower

Center for Peacemaking and Conflict Studies

FresnoPacific University



Restorative Justice has been described as a way to bring the victim and offender together to promote a better understanding of the consequences of the crime and healing for the victim and community (Gerard, 1996, p.3). With this in mind, the researcher conducted a quantitative random study of why mediation refusals occur. The researcher interviewed 45 Victim Offender Reconciliation Program mediators who had mediated cases between 2001 and 2003. It is the hope of VORP and the researcher that the findings in this study will allow VORP to become more successful at obtaining mediation agreements. The literature found within this paper suggests that the success of mediation is determined by the knowledge of the mediator. We hope that the use of the instrument designed for this study will allow us to determine the areas that may present the most problems for mediators.

Victim-offender dialogue in a mediation setting is the primary tool used to bring about restorative justice. A review of the literature on restorative justice and mediation suggests many reasons for the success

or failure of the mediation process. Factors shown to contribute to successful mediation include: 1) the mediator’s style, 2) the ability of the mediator to show empathy, and 3) the mediator’s competence. The

mediation process, on the other hand, may be unsuccessful due to some of the following reasons: 1) if there is unequal power between the parties involved, 2) if there is a low motivation to come to an agreement, and

3) if there is no follow-up of the offender to make sure he/she complies with agreement that he/she has made. VORP of the Central Valley has an over 99% agreement rate once the parties agree to mediate. The research process here will utilize a case analysis to examine reasons for success or failure during the lead-in to the mediation process in the Victim Offender Reconciliation Program in Fresno, California. Once people are together an agreement is almost inevitable. What keeps people from coming together?


Review of the Literature

Successful Mediation Factors

·       Mediator’s Style

One of the most important factors leading to successful mediation is the style of the mediator. After researching the mediation process, Kenneth Kressel has found that “improving communications is associated with favorable mediation outcome[s].” (Kressel, 2000, p.533). Robert B. Coates also points out that “the mediator’s skills and style played an important role” in the outcomes of the success or failure of the mediation process (Coates, 1994, p.104). An example of the importance of the mediator’s style can be illustrated by an actual offender found within Coates’ Book who suggests that the mediator who was assigned to his case allowed him and his victim to come to an agreement without significant input from the mediator, and because of this he felt he had a good mediator. It was because of this that the victim the stated “you felt he was not there, but you knew he was” (Coates, 1994, p.104). However, in other cases, victims were dissatisfied by the mediators’ passivity. This passivity showed by the mediator was interpreted by the victim as “the [mediator’s inability] to control the meetings” (Coates, 1994, p. 98). As shown by these two examples, the style of the mediator plays a major role in whether or not the mediation process will be successful or unsuccessful.


·       Empathy

Within the mediation process, the mediator is a third party who is there to act as a “catalyst, confidante and counselor to all.” It is because of this that mediators need to develop a style that is conducive to building empathy with both the victim and the offender (MacCarley, 2003, p.2). Morton and Deutsch contend, “[empathy is] the core component of helpful responsiveness to one another” (2000, p.58).

The importance of this can be seen in the book Victim Meets Offender, where empathy of the mediator contributed to a successful mediation session in which both the victim and offender felt that their needs were met. Through this process, offenders were able to “[understand] the victim’s point of view and be put in their shoes,” which encouraged empathy on their part. At the same time, the mediator’s openness to the

offender created positive feelings between the victim and the offender, which helped the mediation process to be successful. This is evident in the statements by the offender who “expressed good feelings about

being understood and even cared about by their victim and mediator” (Coates, 2002, p.102).


·       Competence

Due to the fact that mediators are dealing with two groups of people who are in conflict, it is important for them to be competent negotiators. The need for mediators to be competent stems from the

fact that they must be able to help “participants collaborate to create meaning” in order to reach an agreement (Coleman, 2002, p.140). Throughout the mediation process, the mediator must also be able to

help the two parties create a “flexible plan for reaching [an] agreement informed by a sound understanding of each party’s interests, and constraints” (Kressel, 2002, p.534). Krauss and Morsella concur that during mediation sessions, it is important that mediators “try to understand the intended meaning” of both parties (Krauss, Morsella, 2000, p.96). Since victims most often come to the mediation process feeling

disempowered, it is satisfying for them when they feel that their needs have been met. In conjunction with this type of victim satisfaction and growth of empowerment in both parties, when offenders feel “cared

about” at the same time as they feel empathy for their victims, the mediator has competently created a climate in which an agreement can be reached (Coates, 1994, p.104).


Unsuccessful Mediation Factors

·       Lack of Equal Power Between Victim and Offender

According to McCold the “restorative justice process provides an opportunity to turn conflict into cooperation, leading to real and lasting resolution,” however, this is difficult when there is an unequal distribution of power between the two groups” (Mackey, 2000, p.3). Most scholars suggest that the “deep structure of most conflicts is dictated by preexisting power relations” (Coleman, 2000, p.109). Subsequently, when there is a difference of distributive power between the victim and the offender the

mediation process is likely to be unsuccessful in the absence of effective power balancing strategies employed by the mediator. This fact has become apparent “to practitioners [who mediate disputes] in which

one side is much more powerful then the other” (Kressel, 2000, p.525). This presence of unequal power within the mediation process tends to thwart the mediation relationship because one party lacks self-confidence and the other has resources, which allows them to not invest in the mediation process. Unequal power is endemic to the victim offender dialogue process, requiring careful attention by the mediator. Victim offender mediation training prepares mediators to use this skill set.


·       Low Motivation to Come Up with an Agreement

McCold has come to believe that true “restorative justice requires that direct stakeholders participate in a process where they determine the outcomes.” He also states that the mediation process which is a

“cooperative [approach] can not be compelled although they can be encouraged” (as cited in Mackey, 2000, p.3). This idea however, shows that within the mediation process, the “mediator’s perceptions that the

parties have low motivation to resolve the conflict have been found negatively associated with the probability of settlement” (Kressel 2000, p.524). For this reason victim offender mediation training by VORP of the Central Valley, Inc. teaches mediators to assume successful settlement as the inevitable outcome. Within the mediation process, “the victim does not want to get hurt again, and the offender and his or her family do not want to be coercively threatened or retaliated against. Therefore it is understandable that people would want to tune each other out, especially if there is any hint of disagreement, disrespect, or devaluing of one another in the mediation process” (VORP handbook, 2003, p.38). Motivation could be negatively impacted if either party suspects that the other will not work at an agreement respectfully. It is incumbent upon the mediator to help both parties feel valued and empowered so that they can enter into the mediation process motivated to make an agreement. The concept of a “commitment to be constructive” is a valuable tool in this effort.


·       Lack of Follow-up with the Offender to Make Sure that the Agreement is Kept

Gerard quotes Kay Pranis in her 1995 article as stating, “the role of the community in community sentencing” is that the “community’s main responsibility is to on-going maintenance of community harmony” (Mackey, 2000, p.2.). McCold also affirms this idea by stating that “a holistic approach to restorative justice [is] needed because it engages the victim, offender, and their communities of care in a cooperative process to determine what is needed to repair the harm to those affected” (Mackey, 2000, p.2).

Due to the fact that mediation is thought to be the tool to bring about restorative justice, Pranis concluded, “that its primary tasks in the new configuration are to ‘take ownership’ for its members and to implement

the terms of accountability” (as cited in Gerard 1997 p.7). What she seems to be suggesting is that the whole community has a role in following up to facilitate the process of conflict resolution. The importance of follow-up can be seen in McCold’s statement in which she states that “programs which support crime victims, but do not address the offender[‘s] needs for that [person’s] accountability and fail to address [the] victim and [the] offender’s relationship and reintegration issues can only be said to be partly restorative” (Mackey, 2002, p.3). This is the reason why VORP trains mediators to follow up with offenders and victims to make sure that restitution is happening, and employs a full-time agreements manager. To

encourage successful resolution, VORP-trained mediators refer their clients to a person within the agency whose job it is to connect the offender and his family with support services. If the agreement is not being

kept, the mediator follows up to find out why and decides whether or not to revisit the agreement or send the case back to court. In cases without this type of follow-up, Kressel states “victims were most dissatisfied when there was mediation lacking authority in assuring completion of restitution and/or inadequate punishment” (1994, p.97). Overall, the mediation process is designed to help heal the victim and offender’s once-severed relationship, through community participation. The end result is that the victim and the offender through the mediation process are able to make things right between themselves. However, if one of the disputing parties feels as though the mediation process failed to do this, than he/she will feel cheated and true restorative justice will not be accomplished.

The literature does not discuss who or what causes mediation refusals. However, it does suggest that lack of motivation, unequal power, and lack of follow-up are factors in unsuccessful mediations. The researcher used a random quantitative study to find out why mediation refusals occur. The researcher analyzed through open-ended questions why mediators who volunteer for VORP believe mediation is refused, and who is most likely to refuse mediation. The literature review above will then be compared against these findings to determine if they run concurrent with the findings of the researcher.



The dependent variable within this study is the reason why mediation refusals take place in the mediation process of Victim Offender Reconciliation Program (VORP) of the Central Valley, Inc. The data

within this study was collected by surveying people who have acted as a mediator for VORP in the last three years. The independent variables within this study are the professional status and age of the mediators. Due

to the type of survey the researcher conducted, and because the mediators are some distance from the agency and have completed their mediations some time in the past, the most practical way to collect data for

this survey was to create a telephone questionnaire. The objective is to learn why mediation refusals may occur. Since the offenders are juveniles and confidentiality is an issue, the best sources of information available are the mediators who were involved with the cases.

The researcher used a random method of choosing mediators who have been involved with cases in which one or both parties refused to become involved in the mediation process, thus preventing the opportunity for successful mediation. VORP of the Central Valley, Inc. has over 7,000 case records dating back to 1982. Using records from 2001 through 2003, the researcher selected 95 mediators to be interviewed out of a possible 708. However, the researcher was only able to reach 47% of the total 95 mediators, meaning that 45 mediators were actually interviewed. The selected subjects were stratified based upon their status and age.



The demographics that were utilized in this study were gender, age, years of mediation experience and ethnicity. The researcher put thirteen questions to the forty-five individuals that would become his sample. SPSS software was utilized to develop the statistical information that is found in the results section of this paper. The questions were designed to measure the different perspectives of mediators regarding why mediation refusals might occur. The demographic variables are discussed below, along with the data collected by the researcher, which compares and contrasts with the literature review above.


·       Gender

Overall, the researcher found within his sample that the majority of mediators were women. Males made up 37.8% of the total sample. This is a relatively small number when compared to the 62.2% of the female

mediators who were interviewed. The researcher’s assumption was that it would be more evenly split between males and females.


·       Age

The ages of the mediators varied, however, the group that was represented the least in this study was the mediators who were between the ages of 18 and 20, because they made up only 2.2% of the total

sample. Mediators who were between the ages of 21-35 represented 31.1 percent of the total mediators interviewed, which was significantly higher than the mediators who were between the ages of 18-20. However, the age group that was most prevalent in this study was those mediators who were between the ages of 36-50. Overall, this age group made up a grand total of 42.2% of the sample. An even more interesting figure is that mediators between the ages of 51-70 made up 24.4% of the surveying population. VORP of the Central Valley, Inc. seems to attract mature mediators.


·       Ethnicity

It was thought that Caucasians would make up the majority of the researcher’s sample. This assumption held, with African Americans making up only 2.2% of the total mediators surveyed, Asians representing

2.2%, and Hispanics 11.1% of the mediators who participated in this study. These numbers pale in comparison to Caucasians who made up 66.7% of the mediators who participated in this study.


·       Years of Mediation Experience

Before reviewing the results of the study, the researcher believed that the majority of the mediators would have had less than one year of mediation experience. However, the individuals who answered this

survey who had 1-5 months of mediation experience represented 20.0% of the sample while 28.9% of the overall sample claimed to have been mediating for 6-11 months, giving a cumulative percent of only 48.9,

less than half of the overall mediators surveyed for this study. The majority of the individuals surveyed stated that they had been mediating between 1 and 5 years, giving them an overall accumulation of 33.3% of the total mediators surveyed. One of the statistics that really sticks out is the fact that 15.6% of the individuals who were surveyed had been mediating between 6 and ten years. The number of mediators who had more than ten years of mediation experience only represented 2.2% of the overall mediators who were surveyed for this study. VORP of the Central Valley, Inc. has been in operation over twenty years.


Survey Questions

The first four questions of this study were designed to measure the mediator’s perception of who is more likely to cause mediation refusals. The four questions that the researcher used to measure the

mediator’s responses were 1) How often did victims refuse mediation? 2) How often did male victims refuse mediation? 3) How often did female victims refuse mediation? and 4) How often did parents of victims

cause refusals?


The charts in Appendix 1 show the responses made by mediators. The responses by these mediators suggest that they do not perceive victims as the ones who refuse to mediate. This contrasts with the anecdotal evidence provided by VORP of the Central Valley, Inc. staff who see victims as the more likely refusers. However, 35% of the mediators (16) did claim that groups of victims sometimes in fact refused mediation. Mediators saw male victims as a major source of mediation refusals, because 26.7 (12) of the mediators claimed that males often caused mediation refusals. Female victims, on the other hand, were perceived by the mediators to be less likely to cause mediation refusals because a majority of the mediators or 45.5% (20) believed females were not to blame for the mediation refusal that they experienced. When the mediators were asked to give their perception of the parents of the victims to see whether or not they caused mediation refusals, 44.4 (20) of the mediators surveyed thought that parents rarely caused mediation


The next five questions were designed to help researchers understand whether or not groups of offenders, male offenders, female offenders, or parents of offenders were the cause of mediation refusals.

The questions that were designed to measure the perceptions of the mediators are: 5) How often did offenders refuse mediation? 6) How often did male offenders refuse mediation? 7) How often did female offenders refuse mediation? 8) How often did parents of offenders cause refusals?

Within the case files of VORP exist a high number of cases in which a group of individuals are tied together in one case. This led the researcher to believe that there would be a high number of mediators who

had dealt with and experienced mediation refusals from individuals who were involved in these types of groups. Overall, 46.7% (21) of the mediators who made up this sample came to the conclusion that offenders rarely caused mediation refusals. Another interesting finding in this study is that the mediators’ perceptions of high mediation refusal among male offenders seem to differ from the mediators in this study who seem to that they are not a high source of mediation refusals. Twenty out of 45 mediators or 44.4% of the sample came to the conclusion that male offenders never caused mediation refusals. Only a small

minority or 8.9% (4) claimed that male offenders caused mediation refusals often. Though 46.7% (21) of the mediators felt female offenders never caused mediation refusals, a higher number of mediators felt that

females were more likely to cause mediation refusals than males. When the mediators were asked about the parents of the offenders and if they were the cause of the mediation refusals, the majority of the respondents

or 51.1% (23) of the mediators thought that parents of offenders never cause mediation refusals. Only a small minority or 6.7% of the mediators who were surveyed suggested that the parents of the offender

sometimes cause mediation refusals.

The survey then turned from who was more likely to cause mediation refusals, to the factors that may cause mediation refusals. The questions that were developed to measure the perceptions of the mediators are 9) Was age a factor in any of the refusals that you experienced? 10) Was gender a factor in mediation refusals? 11) Did ethnicity play a role in the refusals you have experienced? 12) How often did safety factors contribute to mediation refusals?

          Age did not seem to play a part in mediation refusals with 68.9% of those interviewed saying that age never played a part in the refusals they experienced. When mediators were asked if gender was an important factor that could thwart mediation, a majority of the mediators or 64.4% came to the conclusion that gender never caused mediation refusals. Overall, a combined 22.2% of the surveyed population came to the conclusion that they did not know whether or not gender was the factor that ultimately caused the mediation refusal that they had experienced.

In addition to these questions, the researcher wanted to find out the mediators’ perception of the importance of ethnicity when it came to mediation refusals. In response to this, an overwhelming 68.2% of

the mediator’s came to the conclusion that ethnicity had nothing to do with mediation refusals.

One of the main reasons why mediators were asked how often safety factors contributed to refusals was due to the fact that within the literature review and in the cases found within VORP, it appears that

safety factors are a major reason why mediation refusals occur. However, 48.9% of the mediators that made up the sample came to the conclusion that safety factors never caused mediation refusals. Only 8.9% of the

total mediators thought that safety factors sometimes caused mediation refusals, while 2.2% thought that safety factors often caused mediation refusals.

The instrument that was devised to discern the mediators’ perspectives of why mediation refusals occurred utilized short answer questions. The questions that the mediators were asked to respond to are 1) give the main reason you believe mediation is refused, 2) how would you try to reverse a refusal so that both parties would participate in mediation? 3) Please list any ideas you have that may help VORP be more successful in obtaining agreements to mediate. In the following section we will explore the major themes that derived from these questions.

Out of all of the answers to the question “give the main reason you believe mediation is refused,” the answers that were given the most were 1) safety, 2) the victim and offender do not understand the mediation

process, 3) the victim or offender lack family support and encouragement to be part of the mediation process.

The next question was devised to see how the mediators would turn what started out as a mediation refusal into a mediation success. In response to this question, the answer that mediators thought was most

important was to explain to the victim and the offender the mediation process thoroughly. In trying to help the two parties come together the mediators also felt that it was important to explain the benefits of the mediation process. Another important factor that ranged through the responses of the mediators was that cases needed to be processed faster so that apathy does not occur in the victim or offender. Another key that

the researcher found was that mediators need to be actively listening and trying to determine what the barriers to mediation are.

The last question in this survey was designed to try to obtain ideas for VORP so that they could become more successful at obtaining agreement through the mediation process. The main view offered by the mediators suggested that the mediators themselves have to be able to present themselves as trustworthy. Another was in which the mediator’s felt that VORP could achieve more success in obtaining agreements was by incorporating a mediator mentorship program. One of the aspects that was also spoken about was that in order for VORP to become more successful, they needed to become more public about mediation and

what it is. Another theme that was mentioned frequently was the fact that mediators need to be closer to the offenders’ age and ethnicity.



The major findings of this survey concluded that the majority of the mediators believe that among victims, the majority of the time it is groups of victims that are most likely to cause mediation refusals. Male and female offenders were viewed as being unlikely to refuse mediation. It was a surprise to discover that mediators did not see age, gender, or ethnicity as important factors causing mediation refusals.

Within the literature review of this paper, it is found that both lack of competence and lack of motivation to come up with an agreement within the mediation process can determine the failure or success of mediation. The mediators in this study were asked to give the main reason why they believed mediation is refused. Safety and lack of understanding of the mediation process were the primary answers given. When analyzing this data it becomes apparent that there is a relationship between the competence of the mediator and successful mediation outcomes. The reason that this relationship exists is due to the fact that when there is a competent mediator, he or she is able to provide the information needed to the parties so that they can thoroughly understand the process of mediation. The researcher also has come to the conclusion

that a competent mediator would be able to help the victim and offender see the overall benefits of mediation. Our key finding is that competence of the mediator and a perception of safety are the necessary

ingredients for successful victim offender dialogue. This finding flies in the face of anecdotal evidence to the contrary.

          The literature suggests that a perception of lack of safety is the primary reason for mediation failure. The mediators surveyed concur, despite the fact that the majority of the mediators answered that safety

issues never caused mediation refusals. A logical conclusion is that a competent mediator creates the sensation of safety which permits mediation to go forward. This indicates that the perception of mediator

competence is the key variable in victim offender mediation refusals. The less competent the mediator is perceived to be, the more likely it is that a party will refuse. This finding matches the experience of the elder

of the authors, who has never had a mediation refusal by a party in over twenty years of victim offender mediation, while college students taking a course in victim offender mediation sponsored by VORP of the

Central Valley, Inc. commonly experience several refusals before completing a case, some in the last year having as many as seven refusals before a successful case.



One of the main limitations of this study is that the mediators, who can never know the real reason why the mediation refusals that they experienced occurred, provided the information for the study based on

their perceptions. They may simply be mistaken. Another significant problem is the high percentage of individuals who modestly acknowledged that they simply did not know the answer to the question. VORP of the Central Valley, Inc. has no way to definitively track mediation refusals, although as a result of this study much more attention is being given to the issue.

          Another limitation may have been the instrument itself. The wording may have confused some participants. They may not have been able to understand when the question involved groups or individuals, males or females. They may not have responded accurately to the questions involving differences between victims and offenders. Another key factor in their responses may have been social desirability, their desire to give answers that reflected well on them and the agency. The fact that the researcher was an intern with the agency may also have affected the responses.

The researcher tested the instrument prior to conducting the study. While testing this instrument the researcher chose mediators who were from different backgrounds, age, levels of education, and life experience. Through this process the researcher was able to adjust the instrument to measure the responses more accurately. The results serving to confirm anecdotal evidence from very experienced persons in the

field suggests the instrument’s efficacy.



VORP of the Central Valley, Inc. has been at the forefront of the field in training new victim offender mediators. This important mission is seen through this study as being at odds with producing successful mediations, since inexperienced mediators who do not appear to be competent are most likely to generate mediation refusals. A method for revisiting those who refuse an inexperienced mediator may be necessary to offer the process to the greatest number while continuing to prepare new mediators. This learning is of great importance to VORP of the Central Valley, Inc. and has important implications for its work, and the work of the hundreds of victim offender dialogue agencies in the U.S.


Future Research

This preliminary study has raised significant issues for the operation of VORP of the Central Valley, Inc. The researcher believes that VORP needs to develop an instrument to survey victims and offenders who refuse to be part of the mediation process, and to offer these people a more experienced mediator before accepting a final refusal. This could be done in person or by phone at the time of the refusal. Further research into VORP training methods is necessary to determine what qualities or skills engender the perception of mediator competence necessary to a successful mediation. Mediator age needs to be discerned as a significant variable in future studies, since age and competence tend to be connected in the minds of many people.



The researcher utilized a quantitative random study to better understand why mediation refusals occur. This study was conducted on behalf of Victim Offender Reconciliation Program of the Central Valley, Inc. so that they can become more successful at obtaining mediation agreements. It is the hope of the researcher that this study will not only help VORP, but will also help change every life they touch through the dedicated mediators who help make restorative justice possible in Fresno, California.





            Claassen, Ron. 2005. “A Peacemaking Model,” accessed April 11, 2005

            Coates, Robert B. and Boris Kalaji 1994. Victim Meets Offender the Impact of Restorative Justice and Mediation. Willow Tree Press, Inc.

            Coleman, Peter T. Morton, Deutsch Coleman, Peter T. ed. 2000. The Handbook of Conflict Resolution. p. 108-130. San Francisco, Inc.

            Gerard, Gena M. Community-based Restorative Justice: A Capacity-Building Tool for confronting Crime. http://freenet.msp.mmus/org/ssco/rj/ripaper.htm. 1997. 10/16/2003

            Krauss, Robert M and Morsella, Ezequil. Morton, Deutsch and Coleman, Peter t. ed. The Handbook of Conflict Resolution. Communication and Conflict p. 131-142. San Francisco, Jossey Inc.

            Kressel, Kenneth. Morton, Deutsch and Coleman, Peter T. ed. The Handbook of Conflict Resolution. Mediation p.522-545. San Francisco, Jossey Inc.

            MacCarley, Lisa. 10/16/2003.

            Mackey, Virginia. Holistic Restorative Justice: A Response to McCold.

10282580, Dec. 2000, Vol 3, Issue 4… 10/18/2003

            Morton, Duetsch Coleman, Peter T. ed. 2000. The Handbook of Conflict Resolution Theory and Practice 2000. Justice and Conflict p. 41-64. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass Inc.

            Ruth-Heffelbower, Duane. Victim Offender Reconciliation Program of the Central Valley, Inc. News,  October 1, 2003. Fresno.



Appendix 1

Victim Refusals

§  Never  22%

§  Rarely  27%

§  Sometimes  35%

§  Often  7%

§  Unknown  9%


Offender Refusals

§  Never  47%

§  Rarely  29%

§  Sometimes  11%

§  Often  2%

§  Unknown  11%


Male Victim Refusals

§  Never  35%

§  Rarely  9%

§  Sometimes  27%

§  Often  9%

§  Unknown  20%


Female Offender Refusals

§  Never  48%

§  Rarely  23%

§  Sometimes  9%

§  Often  2%

§  Unknown  18%

Victim Parents Refuse

§  Never  44%

§  Rarely  29%

§  Sometimes  7%

§  Often  4%

§  Unknown  16%


Female Victim Refusals

§  Never  46%

§  Rarely  20%

§  Sometimes  11%

§  Often  5%

§  Unknown  18%


Male Offender Refusals

§  Never  45%

§  Rarely  25%

§  Sometimes  13%

§  Often  4%

§  Unknown  13%


Offender Parent Refusals

§  Never  51%

§  Rarely  29%

§  Sometimes  7%

§  Often  4%

§  Unknown 9%


Age as a Factor

§  Never  69%

§  Rarely  11%

§  Often  2%

§  Unknown  18%


Gender as a Factor

§  Never  65%

§  Rarely  9%

§  Sometimes  4%

§  Unknown  22%


Ethnicity as a Factor

§  Never  68%

§  Rarely  7%

§  Sometimes  7%

§  Unknown18%


Safety as a Factor

§  Never  49%

§  Rarely  22%

§  Sometimes  9%

§  Often  2%

§  Unknown  18%



Engaging Victims of Minor Crimes in Healing Processes


Duane Ruth-Heffelbower

Center for Peacemaking and Conflict Studies

FresnoPacific University


Those who study victims and work with them as advocates usually focus on victims of serious criminal acts, with burglary being about as low as they go. Victimology has also tended to focus on victims of more serious or violent crime. The typical textbook designed for classes in Victimology will focus on victims of violent crime, with mention of other victims. Victimologists are branching out as more persons from disciplines outside criminology enter the field, a matter much discussed by participants at the 4th annual Symposium of the American Society of Victimology in Huntsville, Texas in March of 2006.

          The restorative justice (RJ) movement, on the other hand, has experienced the bulk of its cases coming from petty crime, most often involving juvenile offenders. RJ is useful for any type of crime, but prosecutors are much less likely to cooperate with RJ practitioners in more serious cases, fearing political backlash. A key learning of the RJ movement is that victims of minor crimes seldom receive any criminal justice system or victim advocate support, yet have significant needs for healing. At present these needs are unlikely to be met unless there is a local restorative justice program.

          That the victimology field and restorative justice movements have arisen simultaneously is an interesting item to note in this discussion. This author’s opinion is that by working with different client populations, what could have been one field wound up being two. How shall they work together? An issue that continues to be discussed is that RJ practitioners show high victim satisfaction in their studies, but that these are never compared to victim satisfaction in the criminal justice system. Oddly enough, there aren’t many studies of victim satisfaction in the criminal justice system. This is an area where research would be welcome. It would also be difficult to achieve since a direct comparison could only come from a study where those who agree to cooperate with a victim offender dialogue process are randomly assigned to victim offender dialogue or to the criminal justice system. The District Attorney ready to accept such a study is invited to contact the author.

          The focus of this paper is on the victims of minor crimes. The author is a RJ practitioner with over twenty years of experience following eleven years of civil and criminal litigation work, who has an academic interest in victimology. The RJ program he directs has handled over 7,000 cases in twenty-four years of operation.

          While RJ is a big tent with many different practices, the quintessential RJ practice is victim offender dialogue. This practice has been used in tens of thousands of cases for over thirty years in the United States, and is in use in many other countries as well. Local methodologies are similar, yet different. For purposes of this paper the focus will be on the methodology of the author’s program in Fresno, CA.


The Fresno Victim Offender Dialogue Process

  • Opening and ground rules
  • Recognizing the injustice
  • What is needed now to restore people and relationships?
  • Future intentions
  • Evaluate
  • Write the agreement
  • Sign and celebrate
  • Follow up


This process is so straightforward and simple that volunteers receive only nine hours of training before handling their first case. Success rates for brand new and very experienced mediators are about the same, over 99%. The difference is seen in the refusal rates, which are directly proportional to the inexperience of the mediator, meaning that less experienced mediators have a higher refusal rate.


The Situation in Fresno, CA

Victim Offender Reconciliation Program of the Central Valley has been handling cases since 1982. During that time over 7,000 cases have been received from the Probation Department or by direct court referral, and about half of all referrals result in a victim offender dialogue. Nearly all of the cases involve a juvenile offender and a property crime or simple assault, with some very notable exceptions. Probation Department referrals are usually misdemeanors or citations, and court referrals are usually felonies.

          Of the cases that come to a joint meeting, nearly 100% result in an agreement. Restitution collection where the victim and offender agree on a restitution plan is completely successful in about 90% of the cases, with partial success in the rest. Restitution amounts successfully paid through VORP have been as high as $50,000, with a number of successful cases in the $7,000-$20,000 range in restitution paid. A case received recently is for $28,000 in damages caused by vandalism to an airplane. Cases are handled by trained community volunteers with minimal staff doing the administrative work. The program is funded primarily through private donations. Annual case volume has varied from the low 100s to 650. This year VORP is on track for nearly 2,000 cases.



The Sudden Increase in Cases

A new agreement with the juvenile court, District Attorney, Probation and Public Defender sends VORP all vandalism, graffiti, petty theft and shoplifting cases where the offender has no prior record and would otherwise receive no Probation Department services. These cases are commonly referred to as either reprimand and release or citation cases. They would be entered into the database and the file boxed, to emerge only if the offender reoffends. The parents are sent a bill for $50 to recover the administrative costs of logging the case.

          The one-on-one method usually used by VORP can’t work with this volume of cases, so classes for shoplifters are being created to handle them in groups. This also allows retailers to participate without significant personnel costs. This approach has worked well in other cities. If it works in Fresno, classes for graffiti and vandalism offenders my follow.


What Is In It For The Parties?

The offender is offered the opportunity to make things right, taking responsibility for his or her actions. The criminal justice system can punish, but no one can be forced to accept responsibility. That voluntary act is a key component of victim offender dialogue. The victim and offender work together to determine restitution and other conditions for making things right. This can vary from paying money to promising to stay in school or receive remedial instruction to insure school success. The victim gets answers to questions that would otherwise go unanswered and healing is assisted. Graffiti victims, in particular, are never sure whether or not they have been targeted by a gang and are being watched. Learning from the offender that the vandalism was a random act by a neighborhood youth is very reassuring, and this result can only be obtained by victim offender dialogue. The likelihood of restitution being paid is higher, both because it results from a voluntary agreement, and because VORP’s agreements manager mentors the offender through the process until they achieve success.


So What Is The Problem?

In petty crimes, the victim’s time is worth more than any restitution they might receive. If there is a significant time delay the parties may have put the event behind them, and repairs have already been made. The offender and his or her parents may feel as though the $50 administrative fee charged by Probation is enough punishment. Just hearing that the offender has been caught is news to most victims, and reassures them enough that more process doesn’t seem necessary. The healing effects of victim offender dialogue for both parties are under-appreciated by society at large.


Breakdown of Case Outcomes

In 55% of the cases from the new group of petty offenses the case is moving toward a joint meeting. This is actually a slightly higher percentage than historical norms. For the past two years 99.5% of cases going to a joint meeting have reached agreement, but we expect the greatly increased volume to lower that rate.


Over 450 of these cases have been received. The term “Box cases” refers to the fact that the files would just be in a box if VORP was not servicing them. This chart shows a preliminary sample of outcomes. Of the cases “in process” only one has come to agreement so far.


Analysis of Sample

Victim refusals have been much more numerous historically than in this sample, while offender refusals are much more numerous than prior experience would predict. Since the offender must consent before the victim is approached, fewer victims have the opportunity to refuse, but even that difference does not account for the numbers. Mediator reports indicate that offenders are refusing at a higher rate due to their lack of motivation to put time and energy into a minor offense where there would not usually be any punishment beyond establishing a criminal record. The fear of the meeting is greater than the perceived benefit from the meeting. Victims are agreeing to participate at a much higher rate than usual, which we attribute to desire to help first time petty offenders change, and the high odds of making a difference in such a case. It is also probable that meeting the offender feels less risky in these petty cases.


Plan for Increasing Agreements to Participate

Decreasing the time between referral and service always helps raise the percentage of agreements to participate in victim offender dialogue. VORP will strive to provide service as quickly as possible. Appropriately communicating to offenders that successful participation is a valuable addition to their probation record can be helpful, and VORP will augment its volunteer training in this area. Appropriately communicating to victims the data indicating that victim offender dialogue reduces recidivism and increases the odds of restitution is important, and training in this area will be enhanced.


For Further Information for information on the peacemaking model used by VORP. For more information on victim offender mediation see or



Justice and Crime Prevention

via Civil Law


Marc C. Lenahan

Law Offices of Windle Turley, P.C.



When the criminal justice system works well, perpetrators of tragic crimes are justly sentenced. But there are instances in which victims and their loved-ones have available to them the opportunity for greater justice and the opportunity to prevent further crime.  The problem, however, is that they seldom know about these opportunities.  As a result, neither their suffering nor the likelihood of further crime is diminished.

After completing this workshop, the participant will be able to recognize when victims and their loved-ones can go beyond the criminal courts.  With this knowledge, participants will be able to share with victims the insight necessary to send orphaned children to college, hold accountable the non-perpetrators responsible for the victimization, close the doors of irresponsible businesses, and achieve a sense of justice and healing.

How real is the problem of victims not coming to know their rights?  Let’s take a look at two actual cases.


Case 1:  Rudy Kos

In 1997, a jury returned a $119,600,000 verdict against the Dallas Diocese on behalf of several young men who had been molested during their youth by their priest, Rudy Kos.  In an unusual occurrence, the jury asked the Court’s permission to read a statement to the Diocese in which the jury told the Diocese, “Please admit your guilt and allow these young me to get on with their lives.”

The jury’s 1997 verdict was the beginning of massive and much-needed reforms throughout the Catholic Church.  These continuing reforms have greatly decreased the Church’s practice of accepting unfit individuals for the priesthood, placing them in the wrong assignments, and then concealing evidence of the priests’ on-going molestations.  As a result, the Church is now a far healthier institution than it has been for generations.

The undeniable fact is that the young men who won their suit in 1997 saved countless children from becoming victims, too.

But, consider the following excerpt from a letter written in 1975, by a 30-year old male nurse, and ask yourself, “How many children would have been saved from this nightmare if a jury had been empowered years before?”




Dear Father,

I want to become a priest.  I would like to work in the hospital setting utilizing my skills as nurse-therapist and counselor serving God in the priesthood.  I have several problems to cope with, but my confessor who serves as my spiritual advisor said I have to start somewhere.



Rudy E. Kos


Case 2:  Car Wash

          In order to keep their financial overhead as low as possible, a car wash employed undocumented immigrants to fill the labor-intensive positions as it could pay those men below average wages.  However, the car wash knew, that for positions requiring better English skills, there was another group of people who they could pay below average wages – convicted felons.

It is illegal in Texas for convicted felons to carry concealed firearms, but one such employee came to work with a pistol everyday because he claimed to need it for “personal protection.”  The car wash permitted this.

They did eventually fire this employee when his tendency of flashing women as they proceeded through the car wash caused too many problems. A few days later, he returned to the car wash before it opened, and murdered every employee there.

A widow and her children hired a lawyer one year later, and the lawyer notified the car wash that litigation would soon follow if its insurance company chose not to give the family what it deserved.  A few days later, the lawyer received a fax of a “Release” signed by the widow, and dated just one week after the murder. In exchange for a few thousand dollars that she was told were “employee benefits,” she had unknowingly waived all of the rights she and her children had. She learned of her family’s rights only after those rights were already gone.[6]

The solution is possessing the knowledge necessary to recognize when a victim or their loved-ones should take the time to see if the civil courts can be used to secure justice and prevent crime.  One of the most common scenarios in crime victims’ cases is fairly represented by the following actual case.


Facts:           1)       A young mother in need of a new apartment saw one in a convenient locale with a huge banner proclaiming, “Under New Management.”  The property had a new coat of paint, and freshly planted flowers lined the path to the leasing office.


                    2)       A few months later, while parked in the spot closest to the brightest light in the area (which was light from a streetlamp, not from any light provided by the apartment complex), she was pulled into a van parked in the spot next to her, and raped at gunpoint.


Problem:       Juries often succumb to the psychological urge to blame the victim in instances of sexual assault.  Further, the “New Management” was quick to point-out that they had made “major improvements” on the property, and that a jury would not demand that they have done any more.


Solution:       However, by examining the receipts of the “major improvements” and the contracts involved in the purchase of the property, it was discovered that the new owners were allowed to purchase the property for an enormous discount because it had a horrible record of criminal activity and because the new owners promised to invest an additional $1,000,000 for “health and safety” improvements.  But, instead of investing the $1,000,000 promised, they only spent $800,000.  And instead of spending that $800,000 on health and safety, the money was used almost entirely for only two projects.  First, the property was painted so that it looked nice, without actually having been made any safer.  Second, electric meters were installed in every apartment so that the new owners could start charging each tenant for individual usage whereas it had previously been included in the rent.  (And, yes, they did raise the rent, too.)


Results:        When it became clear that new owners actually made the property more dangerous by providing tenants with a false sense of security, and that they spent money only to increase revenue rather than increase “health and safety,” the new owners chose to sell the property to a more responsible company.  And, because there is now a legal record of their actions, they will not be able to conduct themselves in the same way elsewhere without risking a devastating jury verdict.  The settlement the mother received was used to provide for her therapy and for the needs of the family. [7]

          Though rape and murder at troubled apartment complexes is a very common basis for crime victims’ cases, the instances in which victims can be helped come in many forms:



(1) Businesses that serve patrons alcohol beyond the point when

they actually know, or should know, that the patron has become dangerously intoxicated can often be held liable for the deaths and injuries the patron causes when he drives drunk. 

(2) Drunk drivers, of course, can also be held liable. 

(3) Also, in some very rare instances, the person who provides another person alcohol in a social setting can be held liable.


Gun Shops:

(1) Gun shops may not sell guns without performing the required

background check. 

(2) Likewise, they may not sell a gun to a person who they know, or should know, has been previously committed for mental illness.



Employers have a duty to provide their employees with a safe place

to work.  If an employer knows of a risk to his employees, or should

know of a risk to his employees, the employer has a duty to take

action to prevent the employee from being victimized.


Condominium Association:          

In many states, condo associations have a fiduciary duty to their

resident-owners.  As a result, an association has an affirmative duty

to take action on behalf of its owners when it knows of threats to

their safety.



Depending on the age of the child, and how clear it is that the

parents should have realized that their child posed a threat to

others, parents (most often through their homeowner’s insurance),

can be held liable for their failures that lead to their child’s crime.



If, for example, a wife knows her husband to have a problem with

child pornography, but still permits him to invite children into their

home, she can be held liable (again, most often through their

homeowner’s insurance) for the child’s suffering molestation or





Weapons Handling:

Many deaths are caused by accidental weapons injury. 

(1) Though the injury was unintentional, the handler can be liable

for his negligence. 

(2) Likewise, the owner can be held responsible if he was not careful in allowing others access to, or control of, the weapon. 

(3) Additionally, a person providing another person incorrect or imprudent instructions on how to handle the weapon can be liable.



Countries that sponsor terrorism, as well as business that ignore

known threats of terrorism, can be held liable.


War Theft:                                                     

Countries and banks that held and concealed assets of war victims

can be forced to disgorge those assets to the rightful heirs.


Investment Fraud:

A company that intentionally misrepresents its value and troubles,

so as to induce purchases of their shares, can be held liable.  


          As the laws of each state vary greatly, and as the breadth of crimes that can support meritorious crime victims’ cases is enormous, this list should not be considered exhaustive or absolute.        

A Critical Examination of the Militarization of the American Police Structure: The Police as Perpetuators of Violence



John Paul



Michael L. Birzer.

WichitaState University




In this paper we examine the militarization of the American police force as it pertains to the victimization of the American public.  We present the notion that the militarization of the police exploits all citizens by recruiting in them fear, violence, and mistrust; thus enabling the “control” of social life by police institutions.  Within this work we detail the social significance and social consequences of the use of military actions in law enforcement.  Then, in closing, we propose suggestions to demilitarize law enforcement. 




On November 5, 2003 a drug sweep at South Carolina’s Stratford High School had the American public questioning police tactics.  Surveillance video from Stratford High School showed 14 officers ordering students to lie on the ground as police searched for illegal drugs. Students who didn't comply with the orders were handcuffed and taken to the ground.  Police, with weapons drawn, walked around and over them, while drug-sniffing dogs stuck their noses in and out of book bags.  “I froze up.” reported a student. “I didn’t know what to do.  I fell on the ground.  Everybody thought it was a terrorist attack” (Leach, 2003). 

With this example we highlight one of the most significant trends of law enforcement in the last fifteen years, its militarization.  Borrowing from Kraska and Kappeler (1997:1) we define militarization as "a set of beliefs and values that stress the use of force and domination as appropriate means to solve problems and gain political power, while glorifying the tools to accomplish this [with]  military power, hardware, and technology."  The purposive rationale of militarization, or said “get tough on crime” measures, is the protection of the American citizen from criminal harm.  Its design and intent is the security of the average citizen by institutionalizing a driven quest for the identification and prosecution of hardened criminals. 

          The latent outcome of such militarization is the war it wages on average citizens.  An aggressive paramilitary police force may perpetuate brutality against the “average citizen” and create a set of institutional norms which leads to greater violence by both police and their targets.  Phrased in another manner, the militarization of the police creates a social arena that is now less safe and more violent.  Persons targeted as criminals become more violent in their interactions with the police because of the potential for increased harm; while the average citizen (now seen by the police as a “criminal in wait”) loses trust in the institution designed to protect them.


Social Significance and Social Cost of Police Militarization

Since the early 1980s, special paramilitary units in departments known as Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams have proliferated the American landscape.  A study by Kraska (1997) showed that 90 percent of cities with populations of more than 50,000 had paramilitary units, as did three-quarters of those with populations under 50,000.  Furthermore, an increasing number of communities under 10,000 people are gaining SWAT style paramilitary units.  For example, the community of Jasper, Texas (a town of 2,000 people and a police force of seven) has been the beneficiary of seven M-16s, and an armored personnel carrier (60 Minutes, 1997).

But of greater concern here is not the proliferation of SWAT style units across the nation. Our concern is the military style training that all “peace officers” now receive and the socialization they undergo for “war.”  We argue in the mentality and the metaphor of "war" the American streets become the "front," and American citizens exist as "enemy combatants" (Weber, 1999:10).  Stated differently, once an organization with a militaristic orientation becomes institutionalized, the members exist within a culture wherein they believe that they are literally engaged in combat.

          Indeed, the training officers receive for war can lead to particular abuses. In specific, we highlight the use of excessive force, mistakes, and the destruction of public trust.  We mark these concepts with illustrations:


Military Abuse:  The Use of Excessive Force

In war casualties happen, and the warring public often accepts death (especially the death of enemy persons).  Consider however the following casualties of war:

Four officers from the NYPD’s uncover street crimes unit fired 41 shots at Amadou Diallo, a 22 year old Guinea immigrant. Diallo, who spoke little English, was hit 19 times while reaching for his wallet to offer his identity to the police. According to Parenti (2000:108-9), “Police later ransacked his home... in a desperate search for drugs, weapons or anything that might comprise the dead man and justify the shooting. They came up empty handed.”


In Portland, Oregon police commandos shot it out with a suspect. By the time the raid was over two officers were wounded and a third killed. Dragging out the wounded suspect, they stripped him on the lawn in full view of a television camera crew and lashed him to the tailgate of an armored vehicle and “paraded him like a dead buck” (Dodge, 1998).


As noted, in war we tend to accept casualties so long as they are the enemy’s or are casualties made in the act of vanquishing the enemy.  The problem here however is the fact that the American public has been named the enemy and thus incurs the casualties of war.


Mistakes Will Happen: 

Collateral Damage, Mistaken Identity, and Self injury

In wara number of “noncombatants” will be injured of killed.  The salient question we need to ask however is:  Does waging a war protect our citizens or produce for them a greater risk of harm?  Consider the following:

Under the rule of probable cause [the police] stopped a group of people coming home from church. They were stopped at a gas station, where gangs hang out, and the police made them all get on the ground, lie in the dirt and oil. All of them- in their Sunday best (Parenti, 2000:118). 


A civilian police review board plans to investigate the shooting of an innocent bystander in Albany, N.Y. when two police officers opened fire at a suspect's car on New Year's Eve.  Police said the suspect drove his car in reverse toward officers who opened fire with 8 shots. The driver lived; the bystander did not (, 2004).


Such overzealousness can create the potential for civil rights violations and civilian harm or death. Further, this aggressive nature can lead to mistaken identity.  For example:

Misreading the local address, police raided the home of what they thought was a drug dealer. No drug dealer was found however. Instead, they entered the home of a 64 year old retired farm worker. When he reached for a pocket knife he was shot 15 times (Bier, 1999).


In the same vein, officers engaging in “combat” operations officers often mistake each other for the suspects they are pursuing:

While serving a search warrant on a dwelling that turned out to be empty SWAT team members stormed the building, and in the confusion caused by aggression and smoke grenades, mistook each other for gun wielding suspects. Team members opened fired on each other killing one of their own (MacGregor, 1998).


Destroying Community Trust

The mentality of war has further consequences for the American community.  We argue that police are trained to resemble soldiers at war; and soldiers at war operate under a code of domination not service.  Thus, all actions (or perceived offenses) by civilians must be handled by domination-- by force and control.  Stated boldly, no longer do police officers operate as officers of the law; they act as the law itself.   Such actions serve only to destroy the fabric of social life, trust.  As Lewis and Weigert (1985:986) write, “[Trust] is a collective attribute... it is the fundamental  “prerequisite” for the possibility of society.”  Indeed, Simmel (1990:178) asserts, “without the general trust that people have in each other, society itself would disintegrate.”  The only alternative to trust is as Luhmann (1979:4) argues, “chaos and paralyzing fear.”         


Improving Police-Community Relations

Citizens and police administrators alike often believe that police-community relations will be improved by purging racist, insensitive, and vicious cops from the force.  Assuredly these officers are part of the problem.  But as Culbertson (2000) notes, “pointing fingers [at individual officers] does not help much.”  One can't assign all of the blame to a few aggressive officers.  Furthermore, the answer cannot be encapsulated by removing the “bad apples” from the police force.   We present the notion that the current paramilitary culture may nurture these destructive officers.  We recommend the removal of aggressive, military-style crime-fighting and replace them with other proactive forms of police work.



1.  Implement Community Policing as a Mechanism for Trust Building Initiatives.

The ideas of community policing are relatively simplistic in-so-much that the police take on a role of being more community oriented and the citizens take on a role of being more involved with assisting the police withinformation (Thurman, Zhao, Giacomazzi, 2001).  Many scholars argue that with community policing, police officers will be expected to become partners with the community in maintaining social order (Carter & Radelet, 1999). 

          Community policing differs from traditional law enforcement because it allows police the freedom to expand the scope of their jobs.  Police in this sense are challenged to become community problem solvers and encouraged to use their time creatively.  Likewise, police will be required to discern vast amounts of information and recognize available resources in order to apply to problem solving.

Considerable theoretical scholarship on community policing has speculated on the importance of the police to work in partnership with citizens, and other private and public organizations in order to solve problems and improve the quality of life in neighborhoods.  For example, Trojanowicz (1990:125) observed that “community policing requires a department-wide philosophical commitment to involve average citizens as partners in the process of reducing and controlling the contemporary problems of crime, drugs, fear of crime and neighborhood decay; and in efforts to improve overall quality of life in the community.”  Many police agencies that have received federal funding for community oriented policing have reported that they are working in partnership with community groups and other organizations to identify and solve problems (Maguire and Mastrofski, 1999; DeJong and Mastrofski, 2001).


2.  Technology vs. People: End our Over Reliance on Technology

Historically, many American cops walked a beat, conversing with citizens in face to face settings.  Recently, however, police have shifted in large numbers from the beat to patrol cars. Thought efficient (one can drive quickly to the scene of a crime when the dispatcher calls and they protect against physical harm), the patrol car does not easily allow for community service. While in the car it becomes very difficult for officers to help the proverbial “old lady” cross the street. As a result, police-citizen contact is primarily crime scene investigation.  When police officers respond only to incidents of crime they see community members as criminals in wait.  Such settings negate the two-way contact that's needed to create mutual respect and understanding.  As Zellner (1995:16) reminds us, “well-trained officers walking a beat learn their neighborhoods and are often able to prevent trouble.  There is considerable merit in the old saying, ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’”


3.  Make Symbolic Changes in Uniforms and Messages of Control

As an important symbolic step, law enforcement should give up their military style clothing and gear.  Camouflage and black or near-black uniforms should be replaced with a color more consistent and symbolic of democracy (such as ordinary blue).  Powers (1995), a scholar of the psychology of clothing, explains that black law enforcement uniforms tap "into associations between the color black and authority, invincibility, the power to violate laws with impunity."


More than this however, the militarized appearance of the police is an act of symbolic violence.  Conceived traditionally, violence is any physical act committed against a person or object for the purposes of instilling harm.  Symbolic violence, on the other hand, is a cultural action used to inspire fear and subservience (Bourdieu, 1977; Bourdieu and Passerson, 1977). 

          We contend that the militarization of the police uniform is used to distance ‘outsiders’ (e.g., the community) from the practice of policing.  The police, as a control agent, are made legitimate when their ability to use violent (and sometimes fatal) force goes unquestioned. However, when public scrutiny is made to enter this arena, the police’s central role (the threat of applying violence) becomes questioned. Conceived here, the militarization of symbolic forms is an act of violence used to structure social relations dominate (the police) and subordinate (the community).



This work highlights the societal harm perpetuated by police militarization.  In particular, the authors argue that the military model of policing operates on the principle of authoritarian control, with no room for consensus, for dissent, or for democracy.  Those who operate under such models organize a world that is ill fitted to values of due process, democracy, and diversity-- values on which civilian law enforcement must be founded.  In response, we have suggested the reformation of the American policing system within a broader system of organization that focuses on community service, trust building, and changes to the police’s symbolic order of social control.  In the end, we hold that such measures could prevent the needless loss of life and victimization of persons by law enforcement in the United States. 



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            Bier, J. (1999). Gallado Family Awarded $12.5 Million. FresnoBee, March 13.

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            Bourdieu, P. and Passeron J.C. (1977). Reproduction in Education, Society, and Culture. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications.

            Carter, D.L., & Radelet, L.A. (1999).  The police and the community (6th ed.).  Upper Saddle River, NJ:  Prentice Hall.

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            DeJong, C. and Mastrofski, S.D. (2001).  Patrol officers and problem solving:  An application of expectancy theory.  Justice Quarterly, 18, (1), 31-61. 

            Dodge, L. (1998). 3 Police Officers Shot in Portland, 1 fatally. SeattlePost-Intelligencer, January 28.

            Kraska, P.B. and Kappeler, V.E. (1997).  Militarizing the American police:  The rise and normalization of paramilitary units.  Social Problems, 44 (1), 1-18.

            Leach, L. (2003). Answers Elusive in School Raid.[Home Page of The State South Carolina’s News Press], [Online] (Posted: November 16,2003).  Available: [Viewed 2004, January 10].

            Lewis, J.D. and Weigert, A. (1985). Trust as Social Reality Social Forces 63 [Accessed Online: ].

            Luhmann, Nicholas. (1979). Trust and Power. New York, NY:Wiley.

            MacGregor, H. E. (1998). Family of Slain Officer Can Sue City, Court Rules. Los AnglesTimes, May 29.

            Maguire, E. and Mastrofski, S.D. (1999).  Patterns of community policing in the United States.  Police Quarterly, 3, (1), 4-45.      

   (2004).Innocent bystander killed after police chase. [Home Page of NewYork], [Online] (Posted: January 2, 2004). Available:  [Viewed 2004, January 11].

            Parenti, C. (2000). Lockdown America: Police and Prisons in the Age of Crisis. New York, NY: Verso Powers, W.F. (1995). Dressed to Kill?Washing Post, May 4.

            Simmel, G. (1990). The Philosophy of Money. London: Routledge.

            Thurman, Q.C., Jihong, Z., and Giacomazzi, A.L. (2001).  Community policing in a community era.  Los Angeles, CA:  Roxbury.

            Trojanowicz, R.C. (October, 1990).  Community policing is not police-community relations.  FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, 1, 10.

            Weber, D. C. (1999). Warrior Cops: The Ominous Growth of Paramilitarism in American Police Departments. Washington D.C.: The Cato Institute.

            Zellner, W. (1995). Counter Cultures: A Sociological Analysis. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press.



 Awakenings: Victim Related Developments in Columbia


Annette Pearson



In Colombia continuing, extensive, systematic victimization has resulted from the ongoing internal armed conflict which has been waged over the last 40 years, the growth of the illegal drug production and trafficking which began in the 1970s and common criminal offending which often registers very high rates on international scales.    

          Developments over the last decade in Colombia have slowly began to create greater visibility for the plight of the victims although victims’ rights issues have been largely a process of winning case by case victories and gaining ground when special circumstances permit that the needs of particular types of victims are addressed. Public policy and planning, interinstitutional coordination and multi-sector response strategies, whenever they evolve, are not driven by a comprehensive, national commitment or by relevant international recommendations and guidelines.

          Colombia is on record in the sixth period of sessions of the UN Commission for Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in 1997[8] as saying it was ready to actively and unequivocally uphold the Declaration. Despite this commitment, nor the Declaration, the Handbook to further its application, or the Guide for Policy Makers are documents widely known or used to orientate the Colombian advances in the victims rights field. 

In this paper I propose that the victim related developments in Colombia be examined in relation with seven areas of interest.




Areas of analysis

Component topics

Recognizing victims

•        State recognition.

•        Public media recognition and visibility.

•        Multilateral institutions recognize claimants.

•        General public recognizes victims.

Access to justice



•        Victims in the criminal justice process.

•        Victims with civil claims handled by the legal system or administrative procedures.


Victims’ rights legislation

•        Legal recognition of victims’ rights.

•        Public lobby for legislation for victims.


Victims’ assistance

•        State recognition of responsibility for victims’ services.

•        Public victims’ services are created.

•        NGO and community services for victims are established.

Institutional capacity

•        Institutional developments: policy design, planning, coordination and operational capacity in public, judicial, non- governmental and community  entities.

•        Human resources trained for working with victims.

•        Financial resources are available.

•        Victims found their own support groups.

Prevention programs to reduce victimization

•        Public and non- governmental. programs combine knowledge, institutional capacity and victims’ assistance to prevent victimization.



General Conclusions

As a result of human rights organizations legal support, since 1995, the Interamerican Human Rights system has reached decisions and agreements with the Colombian Government that have led to the recognition of victims of human rights abuse that the national justice system had failed to redress. Public apologies, memorial monuments and individual and community economic reparation have been part of the settlements.

Legislation that has followed this development and other efforts to make victims of the internal conflict visible, has given massive groups of victims rights. The internal conflict situation has been the Government’s priority in far as creating programs for victims is concerned. Nominally at least, a range of services are available, more so in urban centers than in rural areas where the majority of victims are found, : compensation, psychological and medical services, emergency financial aid, etc. This is the case more frequently in urban centers than in rural areas where the majority of victims are found. Public programs have serious difficulties coping in a professional and victim sensitive manner with a growing demand from victims affected by the internal conflict. Staff spend much energy on administrative tasks and have not been specifically trained for their role.

Victims of common crime have much lower public visibility and solidarity. Victims are reliant on family support and scarce social services which are not victim oriented. Exceptions to this general situation are victims of specific crimes which have gained a high public profile, such is the case with kidnapping and sexual abuse.

There is a growing institutional capacity that lacks overall knowledge of international victim related developments which seriously limits achieving good professional standards or adequate training for volunteers and community networks on victims’ issues.

Universities have not been involved in the advances observed in Colombia. Beyond the one or two law faculties and a slightly wider group of psychology schools which have a staff member who runs or supports a project, there are no regular courses being offered.

NGO leadership in practices for working with victims stem from international contacts with particular experiences in other countries, occasionally with some form of technical assistance and international funding.

International developments that are seized upon to open new fields, such as the recent restorative justice initiative in the criminal procedure code may find their way into the law but there is no existing institutional understanding or capacity for operating with this new perspective.

Efforts and organisations that are working in victim related developments are not coordinated or strategically associated to promote a comprehensive and inclusive national vision and planning process for enhancing victim programs.


Ethical Issues Stemming from the

Human Trafficking  Certification Process


Dan L. Petersen




Human trafficking as a form of modern day slavery is fast becoming a globally recognized problem.  In the USA it is estimated that approximately 18,000 persons are trafficked each year (Shirk & Webber, 2004). Under US law adult victims of human trafficking are eligible for services and benefits if they qualify and are certified. The certification process as it now exists raises some ethical concerns in the context of this severe form of victimization.


Human trafficking as a form of modern day slavery is fast becoming a globally recognized problem.  It is estimated that through force, fraud or coercion as many as 2 to 4 million individuals are trafficked annually in the world today.  While the vast majority of this is intra-national trafficking, approximately 600,000 to 800,000 persons are trafficked annually across national borders (Powell, 2003).

On a global scale human trafficking has become the 2nd most lucrative

criminal enterprise (HSS, ACV 2004).  In some estimates it is considered to be tied for second place with illegal arms sales with only drug trafficking producing more monetary gain.  Of the three major criminal enterprises, the fastest growing industry is human trafficking.  Profits of this magnitude only increase the likelihood of continued, if not increasing, rates of human suffering and abuse in the future .  In the economy of human trafficking, demand is high and so are profits. Add to this a low risk of punishment and capture and it is no wonder that human trafficking is widespread and growing on a global scale (Finckenauer & Schrock, 2002).

Humans are trafficked for a variety of reasons. Labor is the primary

function of most trafficking on a global scale with the sex trade comprising a significant proportion. Of all humans trafficked it is estimated that 70% are women and 50% are children.  These numbers reflect on an international level the demands of the sex industry for women and especially children. Child sex tourism has fed into this system of abuse and virtual slavery with tourists from wealthy and industrialized nations providing a strong support base.

The USA is not immune from this type of crime.  While most people in

the USA may be unaware of the problem of human trafficking, it is also likely that even the few who are aware see this form of modern slavery as something that happens in other countries.  With no significant grass roots support for services, it is laudable that the US federal government passed the 2000 Trafficking Victim Protection Act.


          Under the 2000 Act, the US department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families division (ACF), is responsible for service delivery to trafficked victims. In the USA it is estimated that between 18,000  or more persons are trafficked each year (Shirk & Webber, 2004).  However, in recent years the CIA has disclosed that this number may be closer to 50,000 (USDOJ, announcement, 2001) .  The huge numbers of hidden or unseen victims likely accounts for the discrepancies in annual incidence estimates.

Human trafficking shares certain dynamics with alien smuggling, but is

different in having the additional elements of coercion, fraud, or force.  Alien smuggling produces profits that are immediate to the act and therefore short term.  Trafficking, on the other hand, often produces a protracted and long term income to the traffickers or those who function as slave owners in a modern sense.  Partially in response to an awakening of the problems within the US borders, the 2000 Trafficking Victim Protection Act was authorized.  Under this act adult victims of human trafficking are eligible for services and benefits if they qualify and are certified.  While victims of human trafficking are eligible in many US states for victim compensation, those monies are limited in both amount and what can be covered.  Once certified a victim of human trafficking is eligible for a wide array of services with some specific to the needs of most trafficking victims.  If not certified, a trafficking victim may be subject to deportation and other consequences. 

     Certification requires that the individual must: a) be a victim of severe form of human trafficking, b) be willing to assist with the investigation and prosecution of traffickers, c) have completed a bona fide application for a T visa or have received Continued Presence status from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (HHS, ACF fact sheet).  Child victims are immediately eligible for services provided HSS has received proof that the child is a victim of trafficking (i.e., a letter of eligibility).  The T Visa is potentially fraught with problems stemming from language that may be at odds with the very nature of the victimization.  Currently, the T Visa stipulates that the person granted a T Visa must be of “good moral character”.  Victims trafficked into the sex trade are rarely seen as persons of good moral character.  Historically, prostitutes have, whether coerced or not, been viewed as morally corrupt.

          The level of trauma experienced by trafficking victims  is great. Disease, violence, rape, starvation and severe forms of mental abuse are cited as common.  The HHS-ACF acknowledges that services to victims often require intensive and protracted multidisciplinary professionals ranging from medical to psychiatric to social services. A comparable group in some cases who have experienced similar trauma are torture victims.  However, the comparison is relative only to trauma and fails to factor in such things as loss of culture, family and homeland.  Repatriation for some victims to the native community or country may not be possible due to multiple factors. 

     Latest data suggest that roughly 400 persons were certified last year as victims of human trafficking. The reason for such a low number has potentially many causes. Some of these may be legitimate failures to identify accurately victims of trafficking.  Speculation as to the causes is fraught with errors. Having acknowledged this, setting up a substantial barrier as certification raises concerns.

Often it has been indicated the trafficked victims are unaware of the

situation they find themselves. They are almost always lied to by the traffickers, they usually do not speak the language, they are afraid of authorities who have been described as intent on punishing the victim if caught, and they certainly are unaware of their rights.  Too often victims are deported back to their home country without repatriation efforts or a concern for potential harm or repercussions.  Additionally, even if the system is efficient in the certification process, it is not HSS that functions as a first responder. Often in situations of the sex industry, it law enforcement that makes first contact. Participants in the prostitution are often considered criminals rather than victims.

The Certification process is fraught with problems. Possibly the biggest

argument against a certification prior to the service delivery process is it fails to parallel the tenets accepted throughout the victim/survivor service community.  Victims of crime who are citizens of the U.S. do not have to agree to testify prior to receiving services. The field of victim services has been adamant about the need to restore health to the victim and reduce trauma.  There are reasons why the criminal justice system often inflicts what the field has come to acknowledge as the “second victimization”.  Of course, the victim choosing to assist in prosecution is supported by victim service professionals and victim service professionals recognize that often their role is to protect, educate and act to reduce the sometimes undesirable effects of the criminal justice process.  This same relationship a victim service professional has with an assault, rape or kidnapped victim should be parallel to that with a victim of human trafficking.  The field of victim services has a clear understanding that the best approach to getting victim support in prosecution of a criminal is to insure the protection and safety of the victim but to also support their choices.  Witnesses who feel supported in their choices and are not coerced in any manner, including the withholding of needed services contingent upon compliance, make better and more reliable witnesses.  The bottom line is to establish trust and safety.  Making severely needed services contingent upon compliance with the criminal justice system guarantees neither.

One of the other major concerns in the language of the Act is the

restriction of services to only those victims who are determined to be victim of a “severe” form of human trafficking.  The first argument is that any trafficking of humans is likely to result in severe trauma to the victim.  Victims of crime who are not trafficking victims may receive services even if the crime is not considered “severe”.  While it may be appropriate to link level of services to severity of crime, the withholding of all services on that basis under the Act raises moral concerns.  Certification based on meeting a “severe” level of a crime is ludicrous in that it focuses on the crime not the impact of the crime on the victim.  Granted some criteria such as bruising are likely correlated with a higher level of trauma, it would seem that some psychological abuses to the victim may be much more correlated but more difficult to document.  It would seem more humane, equitable, and respectful of human worth to provide whatever level and type of service available under the act to any trafficked human regardless of level of severity of the crime.  

In summary, the TVPA is a significant addition to the field of victim

services.  As long as criminals can profit from the trafficking of humans, the crime will likely continue.  These crime victims clearly need support and services and while the Act may not be perfect, it has initiated services and protocols of vital need.




U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.  (2003) Adapted from his remarks upon the release of the 2003 Trafficking in Persons Report. Response to Human Trafficking.,An Electronic Journal of the U.S. Department of State, Volume 8, Number 2, June.

USDHSS, Administration for Children and Families.  

            Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2003.

USDOJ, Federal Announcement (2001). Departments of Justice and State issue human traffickingregulation and guidelines for prosecutors and investigators.

Shirk, D.  and Webber,  A.   (2004)  Slavery without Borders: Human Trafficking in the US and Mexico. CSIS. Hemisphere Focus, 12, 5.
            Finckenauer, J & Schrock, J.  Human Trafficking: A Growing Criminal Market in the U.S. International Center, National Institute of Justice


Victimization: Community Attitudes Toward Restorative Justice
Jill S. Schellenberg
Center for Peacemaking and Conflict Studies
FresnoPacific University

This workshop will present quantitative statistical research conducted in Fresno, California.  People of different ethnic groups, ages, gender, and personal experience with crime in Fresno were polled to see how they felt about alternatives to the criminal justice system. This workshop will provide a background in restorative justice principles and statistics on how victims responded to that alternative.


Victims are often forgotten parties in the criminal justice system. When victims are not part of the process, their anxiety about the crime lingers and their questions remain unanswered. Offenders need an opportunity to understand the ramifications of their crime, make restitution, and have a plan to keep from committing future offenses. Implementing a restorative, rather than retributive justice system, could be more effective in making these opportunities possible.

The U. S. Department of Justice website defines Restorative Justice as:

1. Crime is an offense against human relationships.                                  

2. Victims and the community are central to justice processes.                   

3. The first priority of justice processes is to assist victims.                       

4. The second priority is to restore the community, to the degree possible.

5. The offender has personal responsibility to victims and to the       community for crimes committed.                                                     

6. Stakeholders share responsibilities for restorative justice through partnerships for action.                                                                                7.


The offender will develop improved competency and understanding as a result of the restorative justice experience (U.S. Department of Justice).  One of the most comprehensive studies of the implementation of restorative justice principles was done by Umbreit of the University of Minnesota.  The large multi-site study (Umbreit, 1994) of victim offender mediation programs with juvenile offenders found the following: 3,142 cases were referred to the four study-site programs during a two-year period, with 95 percent of the mediation sessions resulting in a successfully negotiated restitution agreement to restore the victim’s financial losses.

Victims who met with their offender in the presence of a trained mediator were more likely to be satisfied (79 percent) with the justice system than similar victims who went through the normal court process (57 percent). After meeting the offender, victims were significantly less fearful of being re-victimized.

This suggests that there is a better way of dealing with victim issues than that provided by the current system. Victims currently feel unsupported, unheard, uninformed, and crimes are being seriously under-reported as a result. Restorative justice has the opposite effect; victims feel satisfied, have opportunities for restitution, and feel less fearful.

          The victim of a crime is currently not central to the criminal justice process. In an interview with a Fresno criminal defense attorney, he said that attorneys see, “the victim like a Kleenex that everyone blows their noses on and throws away. You use them for what you need and then have nothing more to do with them” (Personal interview, April 12, 2003).

This paper presents quantitative statistical research conducted in Fresno, California.  People of different ethnic groups, ages, gender, and personal experience with crime in Fresno were polled to see how they felt about alternatives to the criminal justice system. Then a background in restorative justice principles and statistics on how victims responded to that alternative will be covered.

Residents of Fresno, California were surveyed to determine their understanding of and level of support for the implementation of restorative justice principles in relation to misdemeanor crimes committed in Fresno, California. Restorative justice principles entail making the victim central to the proceedings, the offender doing his or her part to make things as right as possible, and developing a plan for future relations, often including the community.

The study used a stratified random sampling design to reflect the approximate ethnic proportions of victims in Fresno. The hypothesis was that, once informed about restorative justice principles and approaches, people will support them as an alternative to the more punitive approaches of the current criminal justice system for effectively reducing crime. The significance of support for restorative alternatives is that the survey results can influence the legislature and other community leaders to implement those approaches.


Results of the Research Regarding Victims

  • 93% of the respondents strongly agree or agree that victims should get a chance to have their say in the criminal justice process.
  • 81% of the respondents strongly agree or agree that the criminal justice authorities should respect the wishes of crime victims.
  • 73.2% of the respondents strongly agree or agree that the criminal justice authorities should not require victims to do anything they don’t want to do.
  • 72% of the respondents strongly agree or agree that victims should have a chance to ask the offender why they were chosen by the offender.
  • 62% of the respondents strongly agree or agree that If someone stole something worth $700 from them, they would rather be paid back the $700 than have the offender go to jail and get none of the money back.
  • 83.8% of the respondents strongly agree or agree that non-violent offenders should have the chance to repair the harm done to their victim(s), like working to pay back money, instead of jail time.


Residents of Fresno, California overwhelmingly support the implementation of restorative justice principles in relation to misdemeanor crimes committed in Fresno, California.



Huss, G. (personal interview, April 12, 2003).

Umbreit, M. (1994). Victim meets offender. Monsey, New York: Criminal Justice Press.

            United States Department of Justice. (December 1996). Guiding

Principles/Values of Restorative Justice. Retrieved  June 3, 2003, from





Neglect Victimization of University Students in

19 Countries and It’s Relation to Depression

and Violence Against Dating Partners


MurrayA. Straus and Members of the

International Dating Violence Research Consortium

Family Research Laboratory, University of New Hampshire


          Neglect by parents is such a serious and prevalent form of victimization of children that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child treaty (UNICEF 1997)singled out the right of a child to develop to the fullest as one of the four broad categories of rights to which children are entitled.  One indication of the extent of neglect is that, of cases known to Child Protective Service agencies in the USA, more are classified as neglect than all other types of maltreatment put together.  However, as has been noted frequently, research on neglect is only a small fraction of research on child maltreatment (National Research Council 1993).  Cross-cultural comparative studies of neglect are even more rare.  This article is intended to provide some of the needed cross-cultural data.  It reports the prevalence of neglectful behavior on the part of parents of university students in 17 nations (6 in Europe, 2 in North America, 2 in Latin America, 5 in Asia, and Australia and New Zealand) and tested the hypothesis that being a victim of neglect is a risk factor for violence against a dating partner and for depression.   The data were obtained as part of the International Dating Violence Study (Straus 2004; Straus and Consortium 2004).


Prevalence of Neglect Victimization, Depression, and Violence Against a Dating Partner*

Neglect was measured by the eight-item short form of the Multidimensional Neglectful Behavior Scale (Straus 2005; Straus, Kinard, and Williams 1995).  The  percent in each national setting who were victims of neglectful behavior (defined as three or more of eight neglectful behaviors) ranged from 3.2% to 36% (median 12%). The rate of neglectful behavior experienced by male students tended to be higher than by female students.   Even the figure of 3% for the university with the lowest rate is high indicates a high prevalence of this type of victimization of children.

          The study also found very high rates of depressive symptoms and of violence against dating partners and high rates of depressive symptoms.  Depressive symptoms were measured by the Depressive Symptoms scale of the Personal and Relationships Profile (Straus, Hamby, Boney-McCoy, and Sugarman 1999).    The percent who reported three or more of the eight depressive symptoms ranged from 8.1% to 37.5% (mean 15.6%). 

       Physical assault and injury perpetrated on a dating partner was measured by the revised Conflict Tactics Scales (Straus, Hamby, Boney-McCoy, and Sugarman 1996).   The percentage in each national context who assaulted a dating partner ranged from 15% to 45% (median 28%).  Severe assaults ranged from 4% to 22% (median 9.6%).  The injury rate ranged from 1.5% to 19% (median 6.7%).   Severe injury ranged from 0% to 13% (median 2.1%).


Relation of Neglect Victimization to Depression

          The theory that experiencing neglectful behavior as a child is a risk factor for depressive symptoms as an adult was tested using the 17 national settings of the universities in which the study was conducted as the cases.  The variables were the percentage in each national setting why experienced three or more neglectful behaviors, the percent who reported three or more depressive symptoms. Figure 1 shows the partial regression line based on a multiple regression analysis relating the percent neglected to the percent with depressive symptoms, and controlling for age and score on a scale to measure the degree to which respondents in each country tended to avoid disclosing socially undesirable behavior.   Figure 1 shows that the higher the percentage of students in each national setting who were victimized by neglect  as a child,  the higher the prevalence of depressive symptoms as a young adult.


Relation of Neglect Victimization Assaulting a Dating Partner

          The test of the theory that neglect is a risk factor for antisocial and violent behavior found that the more neglectful behavior the students experienced as a child, the more likely they were to physically assault a dating partner.  The results of multilevel modeling using the 19 national settings as the units of study also found an important social context effect:  The relation of neglect to violence against a dating partner was found to apply primarily in social contexts with a high level of violence.  We suggest that this occurs because, in social contexts where violence is rare, there may  be stronger mechanisms for preventing violence, and this at least partly makes up for the socialization deficits associated with experiencing neglectful behavior as a child.  In addition, in  social contexts where violence is more prevalent may impose fewer constraints on individual violence and, by example, may even encourage violence.  (see Straus and Savage (Straus and Savage 2005)for a full report on this study).

The results on the relationship of neglectful behavior to violence against a dating partner are consistent with the developmental sequence posited by Tremblay (Tremblay 2003).  His research and other studies show that, on average, children start life with a tendency to use physical force, i.e. violence, to express frustration and anger, to remove noxious conditions, or to achieve goals such as possession of a toy.  His research shows that care by a responsive parent and consistent discipline are needed for the child to learn non-violent alternatives.  Neglectful parents, by definition, do not provide the level of responsiveness to the child and disciplinary effort to correct misbehavior.which are necessary for children to learn non-violent methods of achieving goals and managing their relationships with other persons.



          The results of this study show high rates of neglectful behavior in both developed and underdeveloped countries, and among a privileged sector of those countries, and suggest that neglectful behavior by parents is a more pervasive problem than is usually realized.  This study has also shown that neglectful behavior is associated with depression as an adult and with a harmful effect that was predicted on theoretical grounds, even though it has not been previously investigated – physical violence toward a dating partner.

There are increasing efforts in many countries aimed at primary prevention of child abuse and prevention of violence against partners in dating, cohabiting, and martial relationships.  It is already known that this requires changing such traditional characteristics of society and of families as male-dominance in society and the family (Straus 1994)and the violent socialization of children that goes under euphemisms such as “spanking” and “smacking” (Straus 2001).  To this must be added the results indicating that being a victim of neglect, even at the sub-clinical level probably measured by this study, is associated with an increased probability of depression and of violence in partner relationships.  This suggests that helping parents avoid neglectful behavior, even relatively minor types of neglectful behavior, could make a further contribution to primary prevention of all types of family violence, including violence against partners and other forms of child maltreatment.  Because neglectful behavior is so prevalent, efforts to help parents avoid neglectful behavior can make an important contribution to primary prevention partner violence and probably also other forms of child maltreatment.




National Research Council. 1993. Understanding child abuse and

neglect. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Straus, Murray A. 2004. "Cross-Cultural reliability and validity of the

Revised Conflict Tactics Scales: A Study of university student dating couples in 17 nations." Cross-Cultural Research 38:407-432.

Straus, Murray A and Members of the International Dating Violence

Research Consortium. 2004. "Prevalence of violence against dating partners by male and female university students worldwide." Violence Against Women 10:790-811.

Straus, Murray A. 1994. "State -to-State differences in social

inequality and social bonds in relation to assaults on wives in the United States." Journal of Comparative Family Studies 25:7-24.

—. 2001. Beating the Devil out of Them: Corporal Punishment in

American Families And Its Effects on Children, 2nd Edition. New

Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.

—. 2005. "Cross-Cultural Reliability and Validity of The Multidimensional

Neglectful Behavior Scale Adult Recall Short Form." Child Abuse & Neglect.

Straus, Murray A., Sherry L. Hamby, Sue Boney-McCoy, and David

Sugarman. 1999. "The personal and relationships profile (PRP)." Durham, NH: University of New Hampshire, Family Research Laboratory.  Available in:

Straus, Murray A., Sherry L. Hamby, Susan Boney-McCoy, and

David B. Sugarman. 1996. "The revised Conflict Tactics Scales (CTS2): Development and preliminary psychometric data." Journal of Family Issues 17:283-316.

Straus, Murray A., E Milling  Kinard, and Linda M. Williams. 1995.

"The multidimensional neglectful behavior scale, Form A: Adolescent and adult-recall version." Durham, NH: University of New Hampshire: Family Research Laboratory.  Available in:

Straus, Murray A. and Sarah A. Savage. 2005 In press. "Neglect by

parents in the life history of University students in 17 countries and its relation to violence against dating partners." Child Maltreatment.

Tremblay, Richard E. 2003. "Why Socialization Fails: The Case of

Chronic Physical Aggression." Pp. 182-224 in Causes of Conduct Disorder and Juvenile Delinquency, edited by B. B. Lahey, T. E. Moffitt, and A. Caspi. New York: Guildord Press.

UNICEF. 1997. "UN Convention on the Rights of the Child." (On-




Elder Resourcefulness and Sociability


Tod Tollefson


John P. J. Dussich

Tokiwa University/California State University, Fresno



Statement of the Problem

As they advance in age, elders may confront situations for which they are unprepared. Their resourcefulness, defined as their ability to solve problems independently or to request assistance, may determine in part whether they are able to live meaningful lives. An elder’s problem-solving strategies potentially apply to a broad variety of situations, including the problem of preventing or recovering from a criminal victimization.  Particularly for those working with elders and in victim services, an understanding of resourcefulness that is rooted in the unique situation of elders offers the potential to yield significant benefits.

          Being sociable, defined as the ease with which one interacts with others, is a way for elders to exchange information with others regarding their social identity, life situation, and developments and resources in the community. As such, it represents a significant resource. Being sociable is part of the pattern of acquiring, maintaining, transforming, or discontinuing relationships within an individual’s social network (Langl, 2003). Close emotional ties in many individuals appear stable until late in life, whereas social relationships often are discontinued in line with an individual’s goal priorities and future time perspective (subjective nearness to death). Purposive action to mold the social world according to one’s age-specific needs contributes to subjective well-being (Langl, 2003). Elders who possess better social-personality resources function better in everyday life and exhibit fewer negative age differences when compared to resource-poor elders (Langl, 2002).

          An elder’s everyday life influences the character and the availability of social interaction. Of non-institutionalized elders aged 85 and over in the United States, 45% lived in family settings in 1998 (AARP, 1999). A family setting presumably would include routine opportunities for social interaction. By contrast, 31% of non-institutionalized elders 65 years of age and over lived alone in 1998. By gender, 41% of women and 17% of men age 65 and over lived alone in 1998. Among women aged 85 and over in the United States, 3 of 5 lived alone (AARP, 1999). For some elders, the death of a spouse may result in the elder living alone for the first time in his or her life.


Theoretical Foundations

This research used the concepts of John Dussich’s Social Coping Theory which describes the process by which people cope with problems. The theory is behavioral, dynamic, and comprehensive in scope. The key elements in Social Coping Theory are the Repertoire, the Problems, the Coping Processes, and the Products. The Repertoire is the accessible collection of problem-solving skills that an individual may bring to bear in order to resolve the stress of life strains. The Repertoire is supported by time and an individual’s psychic, social, and physical assets. Inputs in the coping model are problems that disturb an individual’s equilibrium. The Coping Process is composed of four sequential elements: prevention, preparation, action, and reappraisal. The potential result of the coping process is the elimination, reduction, or retention of stress.



Four hypotheses are presented here:

H1: Sociability leads elders to perceive themselves as resourceful.

Social isolation and withdrawal are oft-cited risk factors for victimization. This inquiry posits that socializing maintains or expands social contacts that serve as a resource for addressing abuse problems. Socializing helps orient elders to their environment. Socializing also may elevate elders’ perceived resourcefulness by increasing their internal locus of control. The relationship between perceived resourcefulness and sociability may reveal an interactive synergism; that is, each variable serves as both cause and effect for the other.

H2. Sociable elders perceive that they can meet their needs.

Socializing draws upon and helps develop problem-solving skills. These skills, when applied to life problems, lead to results that support a belief among elders that they are able to meet their needs which includes the prevention of victimization.

H3. Those elders who are sociable are more likely to be able to take advantage of existing avenues of social support.

Sociable elders will be in a stronger position compared to their less sociable counterparts to take advantage of existing avenues of social support. Having friends and being sociable logically precede the elder’s awareness of having social support.

H4. Sociable elders are more likely to have a positive view of the aging process.

Through socializing, elders become familiar with how other elders cope with the challenges of aging. This familiarity enlarges the skills repertoire of sociable elders, with the result that they grow more confident of their ability to meet the challenges of aging.



Our data from elders was anonymously gathered through a self-completed survey instrument at 8 senior centers in the city of Phoenix, Arizona, USA, during the months of January and February, 2004.  The centers were selected at random and each elder participated voluntarily. 



Senior center staff returned 230 completed surveys. This represents a 29% rate of completion. Correlations of the ordinal variables based on the hypotheses appear below. The results are for interval-by-interval correlations (Pearson’s R). The correlations are positive and strongly significant; and, generally are in the range of r = .4.


Pearson’s R

Asympt. Std. error

Approx. T



R = .439





R = .394





R = .427





R = .514






Based on these findings all four hypotheses are supported.  However, a bias of the sample stems from the fact that the data came from elders who self-selected by regularly going to these senior centers.  Elders who go to senior centers are more likely to be resourceful, sociable, aware of current developments in their environment, and informed of existing avenues of social support. As such, the data perhaps provide a rosier image of the capabilities of elders than would emerge from a random sample of all elders in the city of Phoenix.



These results are consistent with the postulates of Social Coping Theory and suggests that being sociable is a resource that augments an elder’s ability to respond to life problems.  Thus, it is reasonable to recommend that all persons approaching their senior years be provided information and opportunities to enhance their sociability thereby facilitating their ability to cope with later life problems.


Future Directions

This study did not focus on the challenges of coping with victimization, sickness or injury. Elders themselves raised this issue numerous times. A more in-depth inquiry is needed to clarify which aspects of sociability might contribute to resourcefulness and resilience. For example, if an exchange of information is the chief benefit of being sociable, would a non-sociable person with the same information be just as resourceful? Finally, how does the technology for communicating and gathering information (remote medical monitoring, for example) alter the relationship between resourcefulness and sociability?



AARP, “A Profile of Older Americans: 1999”, Program Resource Department, American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), and the Administration on Aging (AoA), U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1999.

Dussich, John P. J., “Social Coping: A Theoretical Model of Understanding Victimization and Recovery” in Victimology: International Action and Study of Victims; Papers given at the Fifth International Symposium on Victimology in Zagreb, Yugoslavia, 1985.

Langl, Frieder, Rieckmann, Nina, and Baltes, Margret “Adapting to Aging Losses”, The Journals of Gerontology, Series B 57:33-42 (2002).

Langl, Frieder R., “Regulation of Social Relationships in Later Adulthood,” Department of Education, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany, The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences 58:P80-P87 (2003)



Disaster Response:

An Intervention Model Using Morita Therapy


Devan Tucking

American Red Cross


Brian Ogawa





Victimization can occur from both natural disasters and human malevolence. The American Red Cross responds with immediate and practical services to assist victims of tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes. Morita therapy has been used successfully with victims of criminal acts. The major components of inter-relating these two intervention methods for increasing the understanding of victimization will be explored. This paper addresses: (1) the widespread disruption of lives and loss of loved ones and possessions caused by natural disasters; (2) the extended time period for recovery and potential for re-traumatization by helping agencies; and (3) the development of an innovative model for disaster intervention.



A natural disaster can strike almost anyone, anywhere, anytime. Victims may lose their homes, livelihoods, loved ones, and even their lives. What was once your home, where you felt safe and secure, now resembles a war zone, utterly destroyed and unrecognizable. How do you pick up the pieces of your life? The road to recovery can be long and difficult. The eruption of Mount St. Helen in 1980, for example, affected a 230 square mile area and killed 57 people and thousands of animals as well as damaging nearly 200 homes. The area has still not recovered from the violent impact of the volcanic eruption and is now daily monitored because of the potential for another eruption (United States Geological Survey, 1997). The Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 in California caused the deaths of 62 persons, injured approximately 3,757, and caused more than $6 billion in damages (Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2005).

          After a disaster incident, victims may seek aid from a number of voluntary and governmental organizations. The American Red Cross offers immediate assistance to meet the needs for clothing, food, and shelter. Insurance may cover expenses faced from the damage or destruction of a home or other property. Federal assistance is also available in areas where a presidential disaster declaration has been made. Hurricane Ivan, for example, hit on Thursday, September 16, 2004. The storm moved at 14 miles per hour, killed 29, and left 443,000 without power. The destruction left by Hurricane Ivan was widespread and include major flooding, tornadoes, and wind damage. Presidential disaster declarations were made in counties in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and  West Virginia.

          During the 2004 hurricane season eight major storms impacted the United States and Puerto Rico. During these disaster relief operations the American Red Cross opened 1,828 shelters/evacuation centers, made 78,606 mental health contacts and provided 16,642,370 meals and snacks to disaster workers and victims of the storms.


Traumatic Aftermath       

          Dealing with recovery needs is extremely stressful as insurance claims and federal disaster assistance applications are all lengthy processes that may be confusing to many individuals. During this time victims of a disaster may be unable to return to their homes and are dealing with relocation. There is no longer a daily routine to follow as lives are entirely disrupted. Shock may set in as the magnitude of the event is realized. With some disaster incidents, fear and anxiety about the event reoccurring may cause additional stress to the victim. This has been seen with the recent South Asian tsunami of December 2004. Millions feared that aftershocks could trigger another deadly tsunami.

Survivors of a disaster may thus experience dissociation, intrusive re-experiencing, and severe anxiety or depression (National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, 2005). Dissociation may leave the victim having difficulty facing reality. Intrusive re-experiencing could produce flashbacks. Acute anxiety may engender obsessive or compulsive behavior. Strong depression may elicit feelings of helplessness.


Mental Health Intervention

          Disaster mental health workers may be available to aid victims of disaster during the recovery period. The American Red Cross provides this service to many victims of disaster. These disaster workers seek to address the victims’ feelings of anxiety, stress, and confusion in dealing with overwhelming emotions after a large-scale disaster. Currently, methods of critical incident stress management and other counseling methods are used to work with victims of disaster and other impacted individuals such as firefighters, medical personnel, and other helping professionals.

          Morita therapy (Ogawa, 1999) is an additional counseling method that could work towards assisting disaster victims. Dr. Morita (1874-1938) was an eminent Tokyo psychiatrist and professor, who is considered a pioneer of Eastern psychotherapy. He believed that health is the integration of the body, mind, emotions, and consciousness in their natural flow. We all have an innate spirit or energy to persevere and live well.



Morita (1998) often used the analogy of a river to illustrate the principles of his therapy. The river is not afforded a glass channel as it flows through the valley and eventually enters the sea. It spontaneously adapts to whatever it meets along its course, finding the path of greatest simplicity and least amount of effort. Similarly, in order for our lives to progress, we must perceive our present, actual situation and adjust our actions for self-preservation and well being. Reality is not necessarily as we want it to be; notwithstanding, reality is always as we need to live it.

Our integrity is thus not revealed by what we face as much as how we face it. We do not decide everything that life brings to us, but we are responsible for everything we bring to life! The courage to embrace life in the midst of any reality is what Morita termed arugamama (Kusama, 1973). Arugamama is accepting “reality-as-it-is,” i.e., factual, undistorted, and blunt, no matter how inconvenient, hurtful, or distasteful. Conversely, a sense of powerlessness is multiplied and aggravation agonized when we try to avoid or manipulate reality.

Acceptance, however, is not akirame, self-denying resignation or limp submission (Kora, 1990). We do not have to endure suffering when there is plausible action to assuage it. Arugamama is not loss of drive but a re-channeling of effort. Acceptance is one of our most “active” attitudes: going with and not against reality. Struggling ends when we stop struggling!

          Life is not perfect because we are not perfect, others are not perfect, and the world is not perfect! Suffering, however, is not what arugamama seeks to ameliorate. Emotional suffering is a natural phenomenon which passes in time like every other phenomenon. In fact, there is no permanence to reality-as-it-is now. Life is “transient,” “evanescent,” and “insubstantial” (Matesz, 1990). We are alive as we follow “what is” because “what is” constantly moves and changes. Our “dis-position” toward suffering must also change. We must accept both imperfection and suffering as preparation for repositioning ourselves to live at our utmost. The sizeable boulder in the riverbed may be un-moveable, but the river moves onward and leaves the boulder in its past!



Fear, anxiety, and shock are natural human responses that we should not try to eliminate or ignore. If we try to control these emotions or suppress them, recovery is more difficult (Morita, 1998). By recognizing these feeling as natural human responses and accepting these and all feelings, we can focus on the reality of the incident and actions toward recovery. Strong anxiety, indeed, indicates strong desire. We are understandably anxious about what we care about.

Kora (1968) writes,

          Among the special features of emotion…is the fact that no matter how high the wave of emotion may be, it will fade in time. If this were not the case, our lives would be destroyed. If the tragic feelings of some heavy blow were to stay with us at its original strength, no one would be able to continue living. Depending upon the importance of the event, its special characteristics, and the personality of the individuals, the ups and downs of the waves of emotions will diminish and disappear when left alone, whether we like it or not.


Purposeful Behavior

The old adage, “If you do not know where you are going, any road will take you there,” is realigned by the following Moritist counsel: “Walk well the road you are on and the destination will become clear.” There is no falling behind if we trust “falling ahead” (cf. Levine, 2004). Some of us, even with the strongest of motivations, do not act because of fear of failure. We must realize that however we act we are really further along whatever the outcome. Even if we start something we have never done before (e.g., rebuilding our homes or relocating our lives), no matter how poorly it turns out, we are on our way to doing it better the next time. For victims of disaster, Morita (1998) offers this behavioral focus: When a person regards a task with reluctance and considers work as troublesome, quite voluntarily s/he makes an attempt to do the work more easily, quickly, and effectively (p. 53).

          Disaster victims cannot wait to feel like doing something. They are prompted by the emergency and basic needs to meet their survival and recovery. They plunge into tasks because they serve a concrete, practical purpose. Life is necessarily a balancing and rebalancing, the continual reintegration of our experiences. Behavior makes possibility endless. We listen to the need and act with timeliness and efficiency, a spontaneity (kappatsu) that helps us solve the magnitude of our every task. When we are able to attend in this manner, we free our natural drive to succeed.



Department of Veterans Affairs. National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. (2005).“Survivors of Natural Disasters”. Accessed on April 4, 2005.  

Federal Emergency Management Agency. (2005).“History of Big Earthquakes”. Retrieved on April 4, 2005.

Levine, J. (2004, March-April). Uphill racer. AARP, pp. 42, 43.

Kora, T. (1990, Spring). An overview of the theory and practice of Morita Therapy (Part 2).International Bulletin of Morita Therapy, 3(1), 7-13.

Kora, T. (1968). A method of instruction in psychotherapy. Jikeikai Medical Journal, 15,312-325.

Kusama, M. (1973). Some concepts in Morita psychotherapy. Oakland, CA: Christians In-Depth Fellowship.

Matesz, D. (1990, Spring). Morita and Buddhism: On the nature of suffering. International Bulletin of Morita Therapy, 3(1), 14-25.

Morita, S. (1998). Morita therapy and the true nature of anxiety-based disorders (shinkeishitsu). Translated by Kondo, A. and LeVine, P. Albany: State University of New York.

Ogawa, B. (1999). Color of justice: Culturally sensitive treatment of minority crime victims, 2nd ed. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

United States Geological Survey. (1997). “Eruption Summary: May 18, 1980 Eruption of Mount St. Helens”. Retrieved on 4/8/2005.




Surviving Strangulation


Sharon L. Walker

Violence Intervention and Prevention (VIP) Center



The Violence Intervention and Prevention (VIP) Center was established at Parkland Health and Hospital System in 1999. The rationale to establish a healthcare victim response service grew from the recognition of the complex and often unmet needs of victims of domestic violence and survivors of torture. Within two years the services were expanded to provide psychiatric and medical follow-up services for victims of human trafficking, sexual assault survivors, adolescent and male victims.

Over the course of several months we observed that patients related an assault technique that appeared to be utilized with both victims of domestic abuse and victims of sexual assault. Both of these types of victims were strangled, throttled, choked, suffocated, or grabbed by the neck. This physical act of violence is especially terrifying for the victim because the attacker is exercising the ultimate act of control over the life or death of the victim. As a control technique the victim yields and becomes compliant with the demands of the attacker out of fear, with the threat of loss of life a near reality.

Strangulation is a far more common act of physical violence than has been acknowledged by law enforcement officials, victims and healthcare providers. Only recently has there been a comprehensive examination of this issue in the medical literature. The October 2001 issue of the Journal of Emergency Medicine included five comprehensive articles that examined the prevalence of strangulation with victims of domestic violence. One of the articles dealt with a study of 62 volunteer participants in a survey of residents of an urban domestic violence shelter and found that 68% had been strangled during their abuse. Many of them had been strangled more that once, with 33% having been strangled more than five times (Smith et al, 2001).

The victim, the assailant, responding law enforcement officers and the media perpetuate minimization of the potential lethality of strangulation. The victim fails to recognize the need for medical assessment and follow-up. This may in part be due to the euphoria of surviving a serious traumatic event but may also reflect a lack of public awareness of the potential lethality of this type of assault technique.

Law enforcement officers and first response personnel are trained to ask and observe the victim for visible signs of injury. In many instances the signs of injury with a strangulation assault take hours to bloom or develop. Redness about the neck and lower jaw may be explained as a blush or a response to food sensitivity.

In a review of newspaper articles in the months of July and August of 2002, the term “choked” was used if the victim survived the attack and “strangulation” was used when the victim expired (Dallas Morning News, 2002). The use of different terms to define a similar action tends to perpetuate the minimization of the potential for lethality of the event. The difference between a survivor of strangulation and a dead victim of strangulation may be measured in minutes at the time of the attack. Another phenomena is a delayed lethality that may occur hours, days or weeks after the attack as a result of internal tissue damage. Smith et al found that only 2.9% of first time survivors remembered any medical problems subsequent to the strangulation attack. However, with greater than five attacks, the victim experienced medical problems in 27.3% of the cases. The lack of visible injuries was reported by 48.8% of the study participants with 1 attack and with 69.6% of the participants who experienced greater that five attacks (Smith et al, 2001).

The paucity of clinical and common knowledge about the mechanisms of a strangulation attack and the potential for lethality contributes to the passive response of the victims, responding professionals, medical providers and the criminal justice system. Choking is a spontaneous internal event that occurs when the airway is occluded by a foreign body or food particle. Many choking victims recover by coughing up the offending item. Assistance with forcefully expelling air to dislodge the obstruction may result from second party intervention. Application of the Heimlich maneuver has successfully assisted with recovery for many choking victims.

For the victim of strangulation another person attacks them. This is not a spontaneous unintentional injury. The attacker may use their hands, arms, legs, an article of clothing or fabric, cord, rope or wire to compromise the flow of oxygen to the lungs and/or blood supply to the brain of their victim. Less than 15 seconds of pressure to the carotid arteries can induce unconsciousness and approximately five minutes of sustained pressure can result in brain death. Strangulation may be characterized as an external event that results in the obstruction of the airway or vascular system, whereas, choking may be viewed as a spontaneous, internal event that results in the obstruction of the airway.

There are four forms of strangulation: hanging, postural strangulation, ligature strangulation and manual strangulation. With hanging, the injury pattern on the neck may show a v-shape or upward notch that is indicative of the placement of the suspension. The victim’s own body weight aids in the application of pressure against the vascular structures of the neck. With postural strangulation, the neck rests across a fixed, solid object and asphyxiation results from the weight of the head and neck maintaining the position. This type of strangulation has been described in the deaths of young children and unconscious victims who have fallen.

With ligature strangulation, the injury pattern will vary in accord with the actual instrument. A flexible object is used to obstruct the airway or the vasculature of the neck. Frequently used objects include clothing, other fabric items, rope, cord, cable, or wire. Generally a linear pattern of the injury can be observed on the victim’s neck.

Manual strangulation is the use of the perpetrators hand or hands, arm or leg to apply pressure to the neck that causes an obstruction of the airway or blood vessels. This is the most common form of strangulation that has been reported by victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Visible patterns of injury may include single marks on one side of neck and multiple marks on the opposite side in the instance of a strangulation by one hand or multiple marks in a mirror-image pattern on both sides of the neck from a two-handed attack.

Survivors of strangulation who could see their attacker relate images of hate and rage in the eyes and on the face of their attacker. One patient stated that their attacker had “morphed into someone I didn’t know” (Elliston, 2002). Wilbur et al found that 87% of strangulation victims were threatened with death by their assailant; 70% of victims feared that they were going to die during the attack; and, 1 out of 4 assailants had a history of strangulation from previous relationships (Wilbur et al, 2001).

The prevalence of strangulation as an assault technique may be found in the multitudinous education methods that society and individuals are exposed to. Print media minimizes the potential lethality by reproducing photographs of manual strangulation and using captions indicative of the subjects at play. Film media portrays manual, ligature and hanging as acceptable means of disposing of an enemy or technique of threat. Martial arts experts are instructed in the use of pressure against or around the neck to control an opponent. The military and law enforcement officers include application of a neck restraint in their training for hand-to-hand engagement. The US Army Field Training Manual includes a specific section devoted to strangulation.

The use of strangulation in an assault is intended to subdue the subject. The mechanism of injury is induced through direct pressure on the vascular structures and/or the trachea in the neck. Approximately 10 to 15 seconds of disruption of oxygenation of the brain renders the subject unconscious. Maintenance of the occlusion for approximately 50 seconds may result in irreparable brain damage, with brain death resulting after approximately 5 minutes of sustained obstruction. The force or pounds of pressure required have been estimated for the various structures of the neck as: jugular vein, 4 lbs., carotid artery, 11 lbs., thyroid cartilage, 33 lbs., hyoid bone, 33 lbs., and tracheal cartilage rings, 33 lbs. (Funk and Schuppel, 2003). It is important to note that these numbers are approximations only as the physiological attributes of both the assailant and the victim are factors in the amount of force applied by the assailant and the response of the victim (Hawley et al, 2001).

The physiological implications of surviving a strangulation attack are still being determined. As with other types of traumatic injury swelling, bruising and other visible signs of injury may not be present directly following the event. Bruising and swelling may take 24 to 48 hours or more to maximize. Bleeding into the sclera of the eyes from ruptured blood vessels may not be apparent for several hours. The longer-term effects of compromise to blood flow to the brain may not be manifested for several days or even weeks after the event. There is clinical case documentation of the incidence of cerebral vascular events subsequent to strangulation (Milligan and Anderson, 1980).

Physical signs and symptoms of a strangulation attack may include: redness to neck, scratch marks, rope burns, thumb print bruising, blood in the eyes or small spots of blood in the eyes, muscle spasm of neck, loss of control over bodily functions, pain to neck or throat, coughing, voice changes, unconsciousness, ringing in the ears, loss of sensation, or miscarriage. At the time of the attack and for hours afterward there may be no visible sign of injury. Asking the victim to describe what happened, where and how will yield valuable information for health providers to determine the mechanism of injury and guide the medical examination. Because many injuries may not be immediately apparent, arranging follow-up examination and photographic documentation of the victim’s appearance is advisable for evidentiary purposes as well as clinical management of the victim.

Late clinical findings of a strangulation attack may include the neurological effects of stroke, tinnitus, paralysis or weakness, facial or eyelid droop, loss of sensation and/or vision changes. If the victim sustained a period of unconsciousness greater than 50 seconds there is a high likelihood that they sustained brain damage. A strangulation attack should not be unlike a closed head injury in clinical management especially if the head contacted a hard surface such as floor, wall or doorframe during the assault.

The psychological effects of surviving a serious traumatic event are no less important than the physiologic effects. The body may heal physically from the assault but the memory is retained. Psychological responses may include post-trauma stress disorder, mood changes, nightmares or personality changes. Crisis counseling is advisable as well as a thorough psychosocial evaluation.

The first responders are vital members of the evidentiary and clinical team to interact with the victim. As with other types of assault, the victim is a key component of the crime scene. Because they may be both physiologically and emotionally in shock it is important to consider that the display of emotion, be it fear, anger or flat, is a normal response to the trauma. A calm, slow approach will be transmitted to the victim. Validate their feelings as they may not equate their speech and appearance to the event. Asking specifics to determine the mechanism of the attack will guide the healthcare responder in their examination and documentation. For the investigating officer, such questions will yield information about the sequence of events – the who, where, when, why and how of the attack. If possible, photograph the victim as well as the scene at the time of the first response. Health care providers should photograph the victim as a routine component of their provision of care. Measurements of the neck should be taken as part of the initial assessment and repeated to determine any swelling of the neck. Follow-up photographs are advisable at 24 and 48 hours after the event. Bruising that may not be evident on first examination may become increasing apparent over the course of a few hours and deepen with further time lapse.

Long-term follow-up with survivors of strangulation is essential to ensure their physical, emotional and psychological well being. For the investigator and the prosecutor follow-up may yield further evidence of injury. Everyone who interacts with the victim should be cognizant that the strangulation assault has the potential for a life altering impact on the physiological and psychological well being of the victim.




DallasMorning News. Articles published July and August. 2002.

Elliston, E. Review of findings with strangulation survivors. Conference presentation. Family Violence Prevention Fund. 2002.

Funk, M and Schuppel, J. Strangulation Injuries. Wisconsin Medical Journal. 2003:102:41-45.

Hawley, D., McClane, G., and Strack, G. A Review of 300 Attempted Strangulation Cases Part III: Injuries in Fatal Cases. J. of Emergency Medicine. 2001:21:317-329.

Milligan, N., and Anderson, M. Conjugal disharmony: a hitherto unrecognized case of strokes. Br. Medical Journal. 1980: 281(6237):421-2.

Smith, Jr., Donald J., Mills, Trevor, and Taliaferro, Ellen H. Frequency and Relationship of Reported Symptomology in Victims of Intimate Partner violence: The Effect of Multiple Strangulation Attacks. J. of Emergency Medicine. 2001: 21:323-329.

[1]The Handbook on Justice for Victims, On the Use and Application of the Declaration of Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power, United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, Centre for International Crime Prevention, New York, 1999, page 85.

[2]Alaska, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming.  Compiled by the National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards, June 2005. See for contact information.

[3]Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bermuda, Canada, Colombia, Cypress, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Trinidad and Tobago, United States of America. In the International Directory of Crime Victim Compensation Programs, 2005. Compiled the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs in cooperation with the Justice Department’s Office for Victims of Crime.  See

[6]         However, because of a defect in the way the Release was executed, the family’s attorney was able to force the Defendants to fund college plans for two children.

[7]         It is also worth noting the reason that the mother called an attorney.  After the rape, she reported the crime to the employee in the leasing office, and asked for permission to move – and permission was granted.  Nevertheless, the owners then hired a collection company to demand the rest of the rent owed on the lease.  The mother called a lawyer because she didn’t know what to do about the collection company trying to collect rent she was told she would not have to pay.

[8] United Nations Economic and Social Council, Prevention of Crime and Criminal Justice Commission, E/CN.15/1997/16. page 3.

*Papers on this and related issues can be downloaded from thewebsite  The work was supported by National Institute of Mental Health grants T32MH1516, R01HD39144 and the University of New Hampshire.